18 March marked the new resting place of the AKS 861, a former merchandise ship from Norway that now lies at the bottom of the Andaman Sea near Maya Bay. Just east of the Viking Cave, this 450-ton ship was ceremoniously sunk after almost 70 years in service. The Royal Thai Navy hosted the event, and guests were chartered in from the surrounding areas to watch aboard the H.T.M.S. Pattani, an off-shore patrol vessel.
The AKS 861 was the last of three ships sunk to create new dive sites in Andaman over the past year. The other two ships were sunk in Koh Yawasam in Krabi.
Scuttling old ships for wreck diving sites is a practice that creates artificial reefs for recreational diving.
Before a ship is sunk, its interior is gutted, the ship is purged of oils, hydraulic fluids and other dangerous chemicals, and most of the superstructure is removed to avoid any potential hazardous caving of the ship as it corrodes.
This and the other vessels sunk around the islands of Ao Nang and Phi Phi were done so to create artificial reefs and make the already popular dive sites even more of an attraction to scuba divers. Coral can attach to the wreck and use this as a base to grow, creating a spectacular “artificial reef” over time.
This reef can also become a home to a myriad of marine life that are attracted to the corals and use the wrecks as a nursery for their young as well as a permanent home. This makes for a stunning dive site that can be a huge boost for both the marine environment and the local diving community as a whole.
Krabi is now the one place in Thailand that has the most wrecks in its waters, and the fact that they are pretty easy to access in comparison to other wrecks, makes it a bonus.
Many shipwrecks lie in very deep waters, making them dive-able by only experienced scuba divers and sometimes specialist wreck divers only. All of the wrecks around Krabi lie in less than 35 meters of water, with many much shallower, meaning that divers need less specialised training to experience them.
The shallower depths also mean that there is more light, which makes for a more enjoyable dive. This coupled with the balmy warm waters of the Andaman sea make the short dive trips from nearby Krabi, Phuket, Lanta and Ao Nang even more appealing.
If you want to experience these new wrecks and see just how they are attracting new marine life, check in with your local dive operator for more info.