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Algarve underwater museum project is a world first

A new project to create an underwater museum off the coast of Portimão is expected to become a much sought-after tourist attraction and contribute to combat seasonality in the Algarve.

In the coming months, two old and disused ships donated by the Portuguese Navy will be sunk 5.5km from the coast to create a diving area for people to explore the biodiversity of marine life.

Called Ocean Revival, the project is gaining ground with the arrival of the ships at the weekend. Patrol vessels Oliveira e Carmo and Zambeze can be seen at the Portimão fishing port.

They will form part of the first project of this kind worldwide, said Portimão Mayor Manuel da Luz. “This is the first time that a fleet of ships will be sunk for this purpose,” he said.

“It is time we took due advantage of the immense potential of our seas and, hopefully soon, Portimão will be seen as an attractive destination for diving. We hope the project will also contribute to combat seasonality.”

Luis Sá Couto from Subnauta, a company working closely with Portimão Câmara to develop the museum, said: “This is a dream that is finally beginning to materialise after five long years.”

Subnauta and the Câmara have been working as partners in the creation of the Association for the Promotion and Development of Underwater Tourism (MUSUBMAR). “Diving is already popular with many tourists to the Algarve,” he said.

With the underwater museum, Sá Couto is hoping to attract around 620,000 visitors in the first 10 years and says the additional advantage of the project is that “the vessels will act as artificial reefs in a sandy bed, allowing for increased biodiversity in the area.”

Last weekend, two of a total of four ships arrived at the Portimão fishing docks to be professionally cleaned and decontaminated, creating a welcome opportunity for employment in the local area, said the Câmara.

Preparation of the ships is expected to take three months before they are submerged “at the beginning of this summer”, said the Câmara.

A total of €3 million will be invested in the project, of which €2.4 million will go towards the cleaning and decontamination.

Sá Couto assured the public that the municipality of Portimão would “not spend a penny” in this process because it is up to MUSUBMAR to find the funding and sponsorship for the project.

The ships will be sunk to a depth of 30 metres, some 5.5km from the coast of Prainha in Portimão, in an area validated by environmental authorities. Tourists will be able to explore safe and accessible routes around the shipwrecks.

Onshore, Portimão Museum is to hold an exhibition of the history behind the ships.

source: algarveresident.com

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