A wreck of superlatives – On April 11, 1991, the largest environmental catastrophe in the Mediterranean occurred. The supertanker “Amoco Milford Haven” caught fire in an explosion in the Gulf of Genoa and sank about 70 hours later on April 14, 1991, 1.5 nautical miles off the coast of Arenzano.
… About 100,000 tons of crude oil escape and pollute the coastal area for several years.
- Name: Amoco Milford Haven
- Class: Super Oil Tanker
- Flag: Cyprus
- Year of construction: 1973
- Length: 334m
- Width: 51m
- Cargo: 14 tanks with a total capacity of 230000 tons
- Crew: 36 people
- Location of the wreck: about 1.5 nautical miles off Arenzano
- Maximum depth: approx. 83 m
- Minimum depth: approx. 33 m
- Length of the wreck: approx. 250 m
Some members of the “Atlantis” diving school and the “Atlantis-Tec-Team” set out for Arenzano to dive the largest wreck in the Mediterranean. However, before you can dive on the wreck, you have to register with the Ligurian region before you leave. Diving in Liguria is subject to strict regulations, ie every 3 divers must be accompanied by a diving guide from the Liguria region.
The starting point for our dives on the Haven wreck is the port of Arenzano. Pippo’s “Haven Diving Center” is also located here, where we received a very warm welcome and were subsequently very well looked after.
Before we could finally start diving, we received a detailed briefing from Paolo. Paolo came to Arenzano from Asti to get to know us and to do our first dive on the wreck of the Haven with us. Unfortunately, he is also the only one who speaks perfect German and English.
From the harbor you can take a rubber dinghy to the wreck, about 1.5 nautical miles away, which can be reached after a journey time of 7 to 10 minutes.
Arriving at the wreck, the dinghy is first attached to the buoy of the descent line. The descent line leads us directly to the roof of the bridge at a depth of around 33m. Since there was a light to medium current on all dives, a free descent was not possible without reference to the descent line. So we had to take the slightly longer route from the
Take the starboard side across the bridge, along the downwardly curved gangway, to access the main deck on the port side at a depth of approx. 55m. Here is the huge explosion hole in the outer wall of the ship on the port side at the level of the upper deck at a depth of approx. 60m. Carelessness during welding work led to the serious explosion, which led to a fire inferno and subsequently to the sinking of the tanker. Four crew members and the captain were killed in the explosion. The explosion hole has a size of approx. 12x15m, so you can comfortably dive into the belly of the ocean giant.
Inside the tank you can see huge heating coils that were needed to heat the crude oil. The Haven was transporting a very specific type of crude oil, and in order to be able to pump out this crude oil, it had to be heated to around 80°C. You can also see stairs in the tanks that lead to hatches on the main deck. They were needed for maintenance work and to be able to inspect the tanks from the inside. We used this hatch to get back to the main deck. It was very tight, but we managed to get through despite double tanks and 3 stages.
The view up through the hatch from inside the tank. The first time I wasn’t sure if we could fit through with all the equipment! But in the end it wasn’t a problem.
Now we are back on the main deck at around 55m depth. We dive further aft on the port side, past pipes, stairs and other structures that have been destroyed or deformed beyond recognition by the intense heat.
Diving along the deck gives the impression of diving a smooth vertical wall. In the past 17 years, nature has taken over the wreck bit by bit. The walls are overgrown with sponges, soft corals and many more. Even in the tanks where the crude oil was stored, the walls are overgrown.
Our dive takes us further to the workshop. This is located between the decks and the funnel at a depth of around 55m in the rear area of the wreck.
Now that the gas supply in our backpacks is starting to run out, we slowly begin our ascent along the decks. At 42m depth we switch to our first deco gas. This gas switch gives us 12 minutes of additional bottom time at this depth without increasing decompression time.
So we now have enough time to explore the last two decks between 42 and 33m and the chimney. This area is also easy and safe for scuba divers to dive.
From the second deck, a staircase leads up to the bridge or command center. It is the top deck and includes the helm station.
Unfortunately, the fire left almost nothing of the furnishings and fittings.
Italian divers erected a statue of the Madonna on the site of the helm station in memory of the 5 crew members who died.
Our dive plan takes us to the last highlight of the dive, the chimney.
And once again the almost incomprehensible size of this wreck is brought before our eyes. Unfortunately, the full height of the chimney is no longer available. Since the wreck lies in a shipping lane, it had to be shortened by around 10m. The view from the chimney in the direction of the decks once again gives us the size of the ocean giant that has sunk here.
It also means the end of our exploration of the wreck of the Amoco Milford Haven.
Our way leads us over the roof of the bridge back to the buoy line, where we begin our slow and long ascent.
The Haven is a very special kind of wreck. It is suitable for both scuba divers and technical divers, although both areas require a high level of experience and discipline.
In the scuba diving area (40 to max. 45m) there is a lot to explore and discover, so that you can always discover something new even after several dives.
The tec diving area extends over the entire wreck and thus offers variety for several dozen dives.