Um-El-Faroud Wreck – Location and General Information
The Um-El-Faroud wreck lies about 150 metres southwest of Wied iż-Żurrieq on the south coast of Malta close to the airport and the Haġar Qim / Imnajdra prehistoric temples. She was built in 1969 at Smith Dock Co. Ltd, Middlesbrough, England and was owned by the General National Maritime Transport Company, Tripoli (GNMTC). This vessel was used to transport refined fuel between Italy and Libya. On the 3rd February 1995 she was docked at No.3 Dock of Malta dry docks for routine maintenance, when during the night an explosion occurred in its No.3 centre tank killing nine Maltese shipyard workers.
The vessel was considered a total write-off, and after occupying the dry dock in the Grand harbour for three years, the decision was taken to scuttle her and create an artificial reef as an underwater monument for the workers who lost their lives. In September 1998 the ill-fated Um-El-Faroud was scuttled near Żurrieq. Now, with a memorial brass plate in place, the 110 metre long, 10,000 ton ship sits upright on a sandy seabed at a depth of 32 metres.
The Um el Faroud is a truly spectacular wreck. It actually became a better dive after splitting into 2 parts at the point the explosion had occurred. The bridge lies at 15 metres and the deck at 25 metres, while the sandy bottom is at 32. Several parts of the wreck could be penetrated relatively safely, but other parts of the wreck should only be visited by suitably qualified and equipped divers. This is a large wreck that cannot be entirely explored in a single dive. Divers often explore the ship’s hull, oil tanks and bow, going through the split on a first dive and later returning to explore the stern and accommodation section.
Um-El-Faroud Wreck – Access
Malta based dive shops go to the Um-El-Faroud wreck from the shore at the picturesque Wied iż-Żurrieq but from Gozo we usually go there by boat and even visit the famous Blue Grotto nearby. This wreck is however more than 20 nautical miles, a full hour’s boat ride away from Xlendi bay and Mġarr harbour. We only go there when the weather is very calm and have a minimum 10 divers.
Um-El-Faroud Wreck – Dive
The Um-El Faroud has a buoy placed close by in the summer months. This is especially handy when there’s a strong current. Divers usually start by going down to the shallow bridge before heading deeper in a south west direction to explore the ship’s bow. They then dive around the outer hull and can even drop in the inner tanks that are completely open and safe before visiting the split between the 2 sections of the wreck. They then start their ascent to the bridge at 14 metres. The safety stop is usually done on the nearby Żurrieq reef.
Divers may wish to spend a second dive exploring the area between the bridge and the ship’s stern, nearer the Żurrieq valley. There are several layers of deck to explore with rusty life boat davits and the stern itself that is like a large vertical wall. Suitably qualified and well equipped buddy teams can also explore parts of the interior of the accommodation section.
For many divers, the highlight of the Um-El-Faroud dive is the split between the 2 sections where the explosion occurred in 1995. The marine life on this wreck has increased in recent years. It is often alive with shoals of Barracuda and Amberjack hunting over it while shoals of Salema, Bass and Bream live in harmony in and around it.