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Last Updated: Friday, 11 February, 2005, 11:12 GMT
Wreck plan aims to attract divers
Divers at Scylla wreck
HMS Scylla was scuttled off the Devon coast
Ambitious plans to scuttle a warship in Scapa Flow are being drawn up in Orkney in a bid to attract more divers.

A similar scheme off the coast of Devon has boosted visitor numbers since HMS Scylla was sunk last year.

More than 3,500 sports divers visit Orkney every year, injecting an estimated 3m into the local economy.

However, the organisation behind the idea has issued a warning over the long-term future of the sector unless action is taken.

The secretary of the Orkney Dive Boat Association, Bob Anderson, said: "We have inherited a resource of wrecks that is deteriorating.

I think the benefits of a project like this in sustaining that industry in the long-term is going to be very welcome
Tim Hartmann
Marine consultant

"I think that without an investment in the future in practical terms things will decline.

"In 20 or 30 years' time there won't be a diving industry up here if we leave the status quo."

Marine consultant Tim Hartmann has been recruited to make the project happen.

"The dive industry is an important part of the tourism industry here and perhaps one that is not recognised for the level of income that it brings in," he said.

"More than two thirds of the divers' spend actually goes to things other than the dive boat operators themselves so it is an important part of the industry.

Royal Oak
The Royal Oak was torpedoed by a German submarine

"I think the benefits of a project like this in sustaining that industry in the long-term is going to be very welcome."

Barbara Foulkes, the chief executive of tourism body VisitOrkney, agreed that it was a very important niche market.

"It has really got world status as a dive centre," she said.

"When you speak to the diving fraternity it is well publicised, it is well known and it is a very attractive venue for them."

Scapa Flow is one of the world's largest natural harbours and has been used as a shelter for ships for centuries.

In 1919, German sailors scuttled 72 ships which had been interned in the harbour area.

Artificial reef

Most of the wrecks were salvaged, but seven warships remain - along with the British battleship Royal Oak, which was sunk in 1939 by a German U-boat with the loss of more than 800 lives.

Last year HMS Scylla was scuttled off the coast of Plymouth to create Europe's first artificial diving reef.

The area is already seeing the economic benefits, with estimates that the new diving facility will generate about 1m each year.

A decision on the plan to sink a wreck in Scapa Flow is not expected for another two years.


SEE ALSO:
Divers flock to scuttled warship
22 Jun 04 |  Cornwall
Submarine takes trippers to wreck
08 Jun 04 |  Cornwall
Monument status for German wrecks
24 Aug 01 |  Scotland
Wartime shipwrecks are surveyed
11 Feb 05 |  Scotland


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