Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Long-lost wreck of oil tanker found off UAE coast

The Ines went down in 1999 after a huge fire broke out on-board

Divers have discovered a long-lost section of an oil tanker that broke up and sank off the UAE in 1999.

The 112-metre long Ines went down on August 9 about 12 kilometres off Fujairah after an explosion and fire on board.

The tanker broke into two pieces of about equal length and settled on the seabed 70 metres below. Of the 30 crew, one died, 24 were rescued and five are still missing.

The stern section, which came to rest upside down on the seabed with its propellers exposed, became a popular dive site in recent years but the bow had been thought lost forever. Until now.

A team of divers from Fujairah located the missing half, almost 20 years since it went down.

“I was always intrigued by the Ines,” said Simon Nadim, who runs the XR Hub diving centre in the emirate on the eastern coast and led the team. “Where is the missing piece? I started to investigate and asked local fishermen. Their nets get snagged sometimes and they knew something was down there.”

They found the bow on January 25 about 500 metres away from the stern. They were not 100 per cent certain it was the Ines – provisionally naming their new wreck “Enigma” – but after a few more dives they found the the ship’s first name from 1967 – Posavina – written on the starboard side. Calculations on length and comparisons of coral growth from both pieces of the tanker further proved the find and they are now going public with the news. "It is an amazing feeling that we can continue the story of the Ines," Mr Nadim said. "Everyone is excited."

I started to investigate and asked local fishermen. They knew something was down there

Simon Nadim

The bow has become a haven for marine life and new videos taken by Mr Nadim show schools of barracuda and even rare ocean sunfish drifting past the wreck.

“The bow section is abundant with marine life,” Mr Nadim said. “And the visibility can be amazing.”

The Ines was built in the late 1960s and, by 1999, was used by a UAE company to collect waste and oil residue from larger tankers operating around the Fujairah and Khor Fakkan coasts. According to local media reports from that day, the emergency services responded to a fire on board the vessel at about 9.30am. It is believed that a small explosion triggered the blaze but it remains unclear what caused it.

The vessel sank at 11.30am but it is thought the bow section broke off and went down before the stern. The emergency services managed to save another ship beside the Ines to which the fire had spread. Some crew members escaped the blaze by jumping on to this boat.

The five missing seamen are believed to be from Ghana, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

“These people are in our thoughts and we remember them too,” Mr Nadim said.

The wreck is closed off to only the most experienced of technical divers, who must be equipped with a special blend of gases to survive on the ­bottom.

They usually descend down a rope that takes them to the tanker’s upturned propellers. Videos posted to the XR Hub’s social media pages show the ship’s rusting and twisted pressure valves, coils of wire, shoes and even a sink.

Wrecks at these depths are rare in UAE waters. The most famous is German submarine U-533 which sunk off Fujairah in 1943. It is believed the rediscovered bow of Ines will also become a popular dive site.

“It is not common to find wrecks or even part of wrecks,” Mr Nadim said. “Everyone is interested and it will be visited a lot.”

Updated: June 5, 2019 04:57 PM

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