On Saturday 22nd March 2014 the Marine and Coastal Department of Thailand set out to a point 4km across the Andaman Sea, just off the beach from Bang Niang near Khao Lak, to sink the T13 old patrol boat. The intention of this endeavour was to lay the boat on the seabed creating a new dive site for the local tourist industry and to open up more Khao Lak diving opportunities.

The Sinking of T13 – Thailand DIve and Sail YouTube Channel

The driving force behind the project were the Tourist Association of Thailand, La Flora Resort and Spa, Bangkok Bank and the local authorities. It has been named ‘Underwater World‘ and is the beginning of a larger project planned for the future.

T13 Stats:

* Ship Name: T13

* In service: 1968

* Manufacturer: Peterson Builders

* Origin: USA

Decommissioned: 19th October 2011

* Displacement: 130 Tonnes

The T13 on it's way to the future dive site
The T13 on it's way to the future dive site

Khao Lak’s Underwater World

The T13 is the third in a series of ships that have been chose for future dive sites in the south of Thailand. The first was the HMTS Prathong 715 which was set down in the sea just off the beautiful island of Koh Prathong. The boat was a WW2 American ship that was decommissioned and given to the Royal Thai Navy. It was 98.1m long and 15m wide, with a weight of 1653 tonnes. The second boat to be sent down to the seabed to create a new diving destination was the HTMS Kietkeaw, an ancient Thai Navy vessel laid to rest just off the shore near Koh Phi Phi Leh.

These old and decrepit vessels are used underwater with the intention of creating brand new dive sites for the diving community and visiting divers. The sinking of the ships helps to conserve, restore and rejuvenate marine landscapes and allows them to thrive with life both big and small. In time the battleships will decay and new marine plant life will grow in and around their crevices attracting fish, macro life and hopefully in time, larger marine species.

For the tourist industry and local economy these new dive sites will be invaluable. They will not only rejuvenate the underwater environment, but will also increase business and therefore job opportunities for locals.

More Khao Lak Diving Options

All new dive sites are located close to land, 2 of which are just off of Phang Nga province. This means that Khao Lak diving options will be more varied in the future and will include cheaper alternatives to the Similan Islands. This will hugely benefit the Similan Marine national park. Inevitably fewer people will visit the famous dive locations, as they will be attracted by the cheaper alternatives, meaning that there will be less impact on the area and it will be able to continue to flourish.

Opening Ceremony
Opening Ceremony

We were lucky enough to be at the sinking of the T13 on the 22nd March. The proceedings started at 07.45 when registration took place at La Flora Resort and Spa. Coffee and pastries were laid out for guests before they joined the speedboat out to a larger boat to view the event from. Once we had reached the larger boat we boarded and were provided with tea, coffee and soft drinks.

The convoy of boats on their way to T13's final resting place
The convoy of boats on their way to T13's final resting place

The next stage in the day was a spectacular sight. Together with the T13 being pulled by a tug boat and 20-30 other boats of varying sizes and purposes, we made our way to the site where the decommissioned war ship was to be sunk. Seeing the convoy of vessels make their way for this momentous occasion was very special.

Once at our destination we were joined by the HMTS Pattani, a Thai Naval ship that is still very much in working order today. A ceremony was held on this ship for VIPs including the governor of Phang Nga, the mayor and the sheriff.

The HMTS Pattani
The HMTS Pattani

Other notable guests to the day’s events were representatives from Google maps. They were out on the Andaman sea with our convoy to survey the area for a potential underwater google map in the future. If they deem this site worthy to be mapped it will make the T13 Underwater World the 3rd place to be google mapped underwater in the world.

Finally the T13 makes it's way into the Andaman Sea
Finally the T13 makes it's way into the Andaman Sea

At 11.35am there was stirring amongst the passengers on our boat. Something was about to happen. The T13’s stern was already half way in the water and for a few minutes it teased us as it just bobbed on the water at that angle. At approximately 11.42 the boat started to keel over and within seconds it was on it’s way down into the deep. By 11.44 it was all over. The T13 was now a new Khao Lak diving opportunity for budding and experienced divers in the area.

The Khao Lak diving community would like to thank La Flora Resort and Spa for the day’s activities and we look forward to the future of this new Khao Lak diving destination.

by Anna Pering