Saturday, December 09, 2006

 

Copper thieves strip shipwrecks

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New Straits Times
December 09, 2006

LABUAN: Two historic wrecks off the island are slowly being picked apart — not for their relics but for their copper and brass.

The SS de Klerk, popularly known as the Australian Wreck, and the USS Salute, both famous among divers for the rich marine life they shelter, have fallen victim to the scourge of copper thieves.

Labuan MP Datuk Suhaili Abdul Rahman said the shocking discovery was made recently by divers.

"The plundering of metals from the wrecks has apparently been going on for some time," he said.

While placing the blame squarely on "greedy and irresponsible" scrap dealers, he also took the Maritime Agency and Marine Police to task "for not doing enough" to check on the problem.

On Dec 3, divers from the Panaga Club in Brunei found a freshly cut beam on the precariously balanced SS de Klerk, and every scrap of brass ripped off.

They found that someone was in the process of removing the main propellers from the USS Salute.

The port and starboard (left and right) propellers were already gone. Hacksaw cuts are clearly visible on the shaft. Even its brass plaque had not been spared.

"The wrecks are not just an attraction to divers. They are important to the history of the island which must be preserved and protected at all costs."

The SS de Klerk, a Dutch merchant ship built in 1900, was commandeered by the Japanese during World War Two and sunk by an Australian aircraft in 1945.

The USS Salute, also known as the American Wreck, is a mine sweeper sunk by the Japanese during WW2. Suhaili will meet with the Maritime Agency, the police and scrap metal dealers on Dec 14 to discuss the matter.


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