Page last updated at 11:16 GMT, Monday, 28 July 2008 12:16 UK

WWI wreck moved to protect ships

White cliffs near Dover
The U-boat was lifted off the seabed and placed about two miles away

A German submarine wrecked in the English Channel during World War I has been moved to deeper waters to reduce the risk to passing ships.

The U-boat, which contains the remains of about 27 crew members, has lain off the coast of Dover in Kent since 1918.

The increasing deep draught of modern vessels using the Channel led to concern about the location of the boat.

A study in 2006 showed the submarine was restricting the available sea room, particularly for oil tankers.

Trinity House, which holds responsibility for marking shipping lanes in England and Wales, sent divers to investigate the wreck.

'Biggest operation'

They found it lay at a depth of 77ft (23.5m), when the minimum clearance depth required is 87ft (26.5m).

Trinity House appointed a consortium of maritime contractors to lift the U-boat off the seabed below the south-west bound lane of the Dover Strait and place it about two miles away in 131ft (40m) of water.

Executive chairman Jeremy de Halpert said it was the biggest operation Trinity House had undertaken in modern times.

"We have a statutory duty to ensure that waterways within our area of responsibility remain safely navigable," he said.

The Channel is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, with more than 400 vessels passing through each day.

Remains on board

It was originally thought the submarine was the UB33, which also sank in nearby waters in April 1918. But investigators confirmed it to be the UB38.

In its two years of operation the UB38 was said to have sunk more than 40 Allied ships.

It ran into a minefield while trying to flee British destroyers and sank with about 27 people on board close to the Varne Bank, according to a statement by Titan Maritime, one of the contractors.

The corpses and remains of six torpedoes and deck gun ammunition were still on board, they said.

Although the UB38 is not classed as an official war grave, talks were held between the German government, Trinity House and the salvors to ensure correct protocols were observed.




SEE ALSO
U-boat to resurface as attraction
27 Jun 07 |  Merseyside
U-boats' last resting place found
22 Nov 06 |  North East/N Isles

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