Wreck of missing oil tanker found off coast of UAE

Divers have discovered a section of the wreck of an oil tanker that broke up and sank off the UAE 20 years ago.
Ines, Oil tanker, Wreck, Uae

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The oil tanker Ines went down on August 9 about 12 kilometers off Fujairah after an explosion and fire on board, breaking into two pieces as it sank.

The wreck settled on the seabed 70 metres below with one crew member out of the 30 onboard killed, and a further five 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.

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A team of divers from Fujairah located the missing half, almost 20 years since it went down and were interviewed about their experience by The National.

“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.

"It is an amazing feeling that we can continue the story of the Ines," Nadim said. "Everyone is excited."

The bow has become a haven for marine life, he added.

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 Fujairah and Khor Fakkan.

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.

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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,” 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,” Nadim said. “Everyone is interested and it will be visited a lot.”

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