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Aug 30, 2021

Ship Will be Sunk for Diving Adventure

Its original purpose when it was built in the 1940s was to transport materials in the gulf during World War II.  Then, for decades, it served as offshore storage for molasses for the Belize Sugar Industries. Now, the three hundred and seventy-five-foot-long concrete ship is being donated by B.S.I./A.S.R. and will be sunk in the sea to become a diving attraction.  The Wit Turneffe, as it is now named, is being touted as a unique tourism option that will provide hundreds of jobs.  Marion Ali attended the Belize Tourism Board’s launch of the new attraction.


Marion Ali, Reporting

For the first time, Belize will embark on a new type of underwater tourism, one that has been tried and tested globally – launching an artificial reef wreck site! And when the three hundred and seventy-five feet long, fifty-eight feet wide and thirty-eight feet high Wit Turneffe is lowered into the Turneffe Atolls, it will be one of the largest ships in the Caribbean Sea. It promises to be a spectacular attraction for Belize.


Abil Castaneda

Abil Castaneda, Director, Quality Management & Capacity Development, B.T.B.

“It is a massive ship. It seems that when you go close to it, like a block of concrete just floating in the sea. But when you get in there and you see the chambers and still have some essence of molasses, you begin to understand the history behind this ship. Yes, this ship was very important in World War II, but it was also important in the sugarcane industry for Belize.”


Garen Simonyan

Garen Simonyan, Representative, Blackbird Caye Resort

“I have been diving for a little over twenty years now. I’ve been to Australia; I’ve been to many other locations and then I cam diving to Belize, which is about an hour and a half from the States. And, a lot of the tourists that come here are from the States – divers specifically. The diving in Belize is second to none out there. It is gorgeous! The pristine diving out in Turneffe and at Halfmoon Caye and Long Caye with the amazing Blue Hole site, there’s nothing like it in the Americas out there.”


The project comes about through partnership from several key players, such as Blackbird Caye Resort and the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association with the Ministries of Tourism and Blue Economy. They have collaborated to facilitate its birth.


Anthony Mahler

Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism & Diaspora Relations

“The balance we have to create during this pandemic period as we call it is, from a marketing standpoint, livelihoods and lives.”


Andre Perez

Andre Perez, Minister of Blue Economy & Civil Aviation

“If managed effectively, marine-protected areas systems have the potential to directly employ thousands of Belizeans, bringing in millions of dollars in Foreign Exchange.”


The project had to pass an environmental impact assessment. After a careful study, a location was found.


Valdemar Andrade

Valdemar Andrade, Executive Director, TASA

“We were looking at a large sandy area because we wanted no possibility of any damage to the eco-system, near any major reef eco-system. That allows us for a margin of error in sinking to ensure that the coral reefs are not impacted. We are looking for a gentle slope because as you know, many of those formations sloped a little bit. But we wanted it to be able to to allow both for possibly free diving and diving.”


But while the environment was a focus, marine biology was also an important factor for this project.


Valdemar Andrade

“We put it within a conservation zone to be able to ensure that it would have the ability to aggregate fish but also that there was not going to be any user conflicts between tourism and the fishers too as well. This site that we eventually looked at is called the Oasis – and the reason why it is called the Oasis is that it is a huge thousand feet of mostly sand area.”


The ship had to be cleaned of oil, paint, and all material that would have been hazardous to the environment or to humans and other life forms once it is sunk.  The vessel is expected to generate significant tourism dollars for Belize because the vast majority of people who come to Belize come for some marine activity. And the monies derived from the tours conducted will be reinvested in managing the site.  Marion Ali for News Five.


The actual sinking of the ship will be done in the next few weeks after the Department of the Environment gave the green light for this project. 

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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