The Um El Faroud is one of the Mediterranean’s most popular wreck dives & one of the top 5 best selling dive sites in Malta. Awesome in size (10,000 tons!), yet accessible from the shore in most conditions. In 1998, it was sunk following a tragic accident during a refit that killed 9 dock workers. It now provides a challenging site in what has become one of Europe’s premier wreck diving locations. Today the Um El Faroud wreck can be found in Wied iz-Zurrieq, near Qrendi. It is 110 metres long, weighs 10,000 tons, beam is 15.50 metres and the height of the vessel from keel to funnel top is approximately 22 metres with a maximum depth of 36m. This site is dived most when other sites are dangerous since it is sheltered by the valley of Wied iz-Zurrieq.
Awesome in size 110m long & 10,000 tons! The Faroud has become one of Europe’s premier wreck diving locations.
Um El Faroud was built in 1969 at Smith Dock Co. Ltd., Middlesborough England and was owned by the General National Maritime Transport Company, Tripoli. It had been operating between Italy and Libya carrying refined fuel up to 1st February 1995. On the 3rd February 1995 it was docked at Malta Dry-docks. The nine workers were working on the the Um El Faroud, when a massive explosion late in the evening rocked the Three Cities and cast Malta into mourning. The explosion is believed to have been caused by an accumulation of gas.
The nine workers were working on the the Um El Faroud, when a massive explosion late in the evening rocked the Three Cities and cast Malta into mourning.
The vessel suffered structural deformation and was considered following inspection a total write off. It had been occupying this dock ever since the explosion until it was decided that the best option to utilize its remaining value, was to scuttle her as a diving attraction and to start a new life as an artificial reef. The diving community chose Wied iz-Zurrieq as the best site to accommodate this vessel. An Impact assessment was carried out over the seabed, and the site was marked. On 2nd September 1998 Um El Faroud was towed out off Grand Harbour towards its final destination. After the ship was anchored on location, Um El Faroud went under after nearly a four hour wait for the ship to fill up with sea water from 8 purposely fitted 4” sea valves. This scene was witnessed by thousands of people.
Exploring this large oil tanker
The wreck is dived mostly from the shore, specifically a small jetty just down from Wied iz-Zurrieq. Divers need to swim out about 150m on a bearing of 240* whilst watching out for boat traffic. A surface swim can be very tiring here so decending down a few metres may be an easier option. This swim can considerably reduce available time to explore the wreck itself, so multiple dives, a twinset or enriched gas mix is advised if you want to explore the wreck in its entirety. The bearing will point you towards the stern of the wreck, which in good visibility can be an amazing sight as it comes into view. The intact propeller and rudder can be found at a depth of 36m and is an ideal photo opportunity, the deck level is around 25m and begins with the bridge superstructure.
The intact propeller and rudder can be found at a depth of 36m and is an ideal photo opportunity, the deck level is around 25m and begins with the bridge superstructure.
For divers keen on wreck penetration the Um El Faroud offers a lot of passages with relatively easy exits. Such passages include the bridge hatches, cabins and galleys, hatches on the hull just below deck and for the more adventurous, stairs down to the engine room, a shaft that goes straight down from behind the chimney right to the engine room, and a passage from the engine room to a frontal compartment which leads above deck and out of the bridge front. The holds are easily accessible following the blast that wrenched open the deck when the vessel was still in the docks. Just forward of the bridge superstructure the wreck has split in half during November storms in 2006. This now makes the wreck a much more interesting dive as it offers much easier access into the forward holds.
For divers keen on wreck penetration the Um El Faroud offers a lot of passages with relatively easy exits.
The forward half is now twisted around 20* north towards the shore, and the area in between the two sections is prone to strong currents. Reaching the bow you’ll find a raised deck with access into the bow, which can be exited by heading straight forward and vertically up a ladder shaft onto the bow deck, making a nice swim through. The bow itself has a large anchor winch and mooring bollards, another common photo spot for visiting divers. Divers might come across some squid and barracudas at the stern. The port side is usually teeming with large schools of sea breams, parrotfish and silversides. Sometimes one can come across the occasional scorpion fish, amberjack and tuna.
The wreck can be entered fairly easily, but due to its size, this should be restricted only to divers with advanced wreck diving training since you can easily loose track of time. Therefore, regular checks on your remaining deco time and air consumption are required! After leaving the wreck you might come across some strong current opposite direction, so make sure you have enough air for your return to shore. This can be a very challenging phase of the dive and if not planned correctly could lead to an early ascent before reaching the shore. If this were to happen and you arrived at the surface in open water you may be exposed to strong surface currents. Depending on the direction of the current you will either drift in a Southerly or Northerly direction ending up in Libya or Italy! This may be a real adventure to write home about, however not recommended.