by Ryan Harrison
TWO environmental groups yesterday renewed their attack on plans to transform a decommissioned battle frigate into an artificial reef off the coast of Majorca. Greenpeace and the local watchdog GOB said they oppose Calvia council's proposal to sink the frigate Baleares for use as a reef, as it will damage the local eco-system. This comes despite a similar project in Britain, which reportedly boosted the local economy by an extra million pounds through increased diving activity. The aim of building the artificial reef off the Malgrats islands, in Calvia, is to create an underwater tourist attraction. Greenpeace said yesterday: “In total 4'000 tonnes of scrap will be sunk, which will damage the local eco-system. Contaminating gases will also affect the sea life there. The artificial reef is not needed. There are enough places for marine life and divers in the area.” Greenpeace have contacted the Spanish Ministry of Defence, which owns the frigate, to try and stop action going ahead.
An artificial reef was successfully built off the coast of Plymouth in 2003 and has reportedly injected an additional £1 million into the local economy. Since the HMS Scylla, an Exocet Leander class frigate, was made reef-worthy studies by the Plymouth University Business School have shown great financial benefits for the surrounding area, as a result of the increased diving activity. The HMS Scylla was decommissioned in 1993 and bought by the National Marine Aquarium. Funded by the South West of England Regional Development Agency (SWERDA), the artificial reef was created, revitalising the Plymouth and South East Cornwall economy. The process of building a reef from a frigate involves many carefully planned stages, above and below the water. The Plymouth project is used as the perfect example of how to do it successfully. The vessel was prepared by a professional team of architects, divers, consultants and researchers to minimise any risk of damage the sunken ship might have to the environment. A series of controlled detonations then allowed for high-tech cutting equipment to sculpt the ship ready for its new role as an artificial reef.
Once sunk, the ship was removed of any hazardous materials and checked to be environmentally sound by government department DEFRA.
Doors were welded shut or open for diver safety and the reef was then available to the public. Diving highlights on Plymouth's HMS Scylla include, the captain's cabin, the bridge, the operations room and the galley. Similar successful projects have also taken place in Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
The success of the Plymouth project will make it difficult for environmentalists to oppose Calvia council's new reef.


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