By Tom Westcott.
Tripoli, 7 July 2013:
Members of the Libyan Navy, training with crew on UK warship HMS Echo, have literally charted . . .[restrict]new waters with the discovery of five large wrecks in Libyan waters.
The sunken vessels were found using HMS Echo’s advanced sonar systems during a two-week training exercise with the Libyan Navy. None of the ships had appeared on any previous charts.
Three of the wrecks lie off the coast of Tripoli, including two that are just 900 metres apart. The largest of these, first detected by HMS Echo when it visited Tripoli last year, is 150 metres long and stands 22 metres from the ocean floor.
On this trip, a detailed 3D image of the wreck has been acquired and, whilst hosting and training Libyan Naval officers, four further vessels were discovered. Two of these were found off the coast of Al Khoms in waters that had never been charted before.
“The wrecks are brilliant,” HMS Echo’s captain, Commander Matt Syrett, told the Libya Herald. “We have a new multi-beam sonar and Libyan waters, rich in underwater obstacles and wrecks, have given us a real opportunity to use this.” He added that the computerised images of the new wrecks were so good, these would be used in the future as examples of the sonar’s capability.
The exercise gave 17 senior and junior Libyan Navy officers the chance to train in the use of up-to-date sonar technologies, while charting 283 square kilometres of the country’s territorial waters. Throughout the programme, members of the Libyan Navy’s hydrographic branch have worked with all departments on the 90-metre long Royal Navy vessel and a smaller survey motor boat used for collecting information in shallower waters.
The wrecks found by the Libyan and Royal navies on this exercise have helped HMS Echo to produce complete and detailed computerised hydrographic information of the area. This will be sent back to England, where official charts will be produced by the UK Hydrographic Office. Once published, these will be available to both military and commercial shipping lines. The work, therefore, contributes to a wider knowledge and understanding of the ocean.
The legacy of HMS Echo’s visit, Syrett said, was that it would leave the Libyan Navy with state-of-the-art mapping of a substantial area of the country’s territorial waters.
With proven data about the seabed in and around Tripoli and Al Khoms, larger ships will be able to enter the harbours and the new charts, once printed, will help ensure safe navigation for all shipping.
There will be an official ceremony to hand over the survey results to the Libyan Navy this afternoon.