RAWAI, PHUKET: In the latest bid to create an artificial reef in Phuket waters, an old dive boat was sunk off Koh Racha Yai on Saturday morning. The aging vessel Harruby was donated to the Department of Marine Coastal Resources (DMCR) for the project by The Racha Resort. Following a religious ceremony and speeches by a number of officials, the sinking of the 18-meter vessel began at around 1am. The dive boat sank in about 25 meters of water off Ao Teu, a bay at Koh Racha Yai. It took DMCR staff and volunteer divers about an hour to fully flood and sink the metal-hulled vessel. After that it took Harruby about 30 minutes to finally descend to its new home on the sea floor.
Mr. Paitoon Panchaiyaphum, Director of the Phuket-based southern regional office of the Department of Marine Coastal Resources, said the project is intended to attract tourists and take pressure off natural dive sites.
The steel structure is expected to be rapidly colonized by young coral, he said. Mr Paitoon said the amount of steel in the vessel put its value at about three million baht in the scrap metal market. Koh Racha Yai is the single most popular site for dive instruction training in Phuket waters, he said.
The Department of Marine Coastal Resources expects to sink another vessel soon to keep up with the demand, he said. Two boats sunk in the area last year are already popular among dive tour companies, he added.
Natural coral finds it difficult to grow nowadays. The cause could be related to global warming, Mr Paitoon told the media.