City officials are promising better patrols and a new buoy for one of Pattaya’s most-popular scuba diving sites after markers anchored by the city and local dive operators to locate an undersea shipwreck repeatedly have gone missing.
The HTMS Kood, a World War II-era landing craft intentionally sunk off nearby Koh Sak in 2006, has become a thriving artificial reef. But technical divers who use the wreck for courses and fun dives increasingly have been frustrated by the disappearance of buoys marking its location 31 meters below the surface.
Gary Tytler, director and master instructor with Aquanauts Dive Centre, a PADI 5-Star Career Development Center on Soi 6, said the original buoy installed by the city went missing long ago and that subsequent markers installed by Aquanauts and other dive shops continually disappear, some just a day after being installed.
Dive operators are convinced fishermen and others are stealing many of the expensive markers and, as a result, now use plastic water or fuel containers. But even those are disappearing.
While dive operators can use Global Positioning System headings to find the general vicinity of the ship, the margin of error in GPS readings – combined with Koh Sak’s often minimal visibility – really requires buoys to pinpoint its exact location. They’re also a safety feature that allows divers to reach and ascend from the wreck safely and warn water craft to keep away.
Tytler said Aquanauts, which takes an active role in marine conservation, would like to install a proper buoy attached to a plastic-sheathed steel line that can withstand storms and strong currents. But the company is not going to make such an investment if the line is taken to sell for scrap the next day, he said.
“The city sunk the wreck to attract tourists but marine police don’t patrol it enough to protect the wreck and its divers,” Tytler said.
Responding to Aquanauts’ complaint, Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh said marine officials were dispatched to inspect the wreck and found that buoy was indeed missing.
Ronakit disagreed that the marker had been stolen, however, as he believes it is was too heavy and that the legal penalty imposed upon those found using would be too severe.
The deputy mayor pledged to immediately determine how much a new buoy will cost then replace it. At the same time, he said, marine police would begin checking the Kood monthly to be sure it had a proper marker.
Dive operators were pleased the city finally took notice of the problem, but said monthly patrols are not enough. Police should sweep by Koh Sak daily, especially after dark, to make sure fishermen are not working the protected artificial reef and damage buoys and lines with their propellers.
(Article by Bob James with reporting by Sawittree Namwiwatsuk and Pramote Channgam)