Historic wrecks to buoy up Wales’ marine renewables sector

An image from a multibeam sonar survey of an area approximately ten miles northwest of Bardsey Island reveals the wreck of the U-87 which was sunk in 1917 (Image: Bangor University)

Historic wrecks around the Welsh coastline are to play a part in assisting Wales’ growing marine renewable energy (MRE) sector, the researchers from the Bangor University have said.

Over the next two years, marine scientists from the Bangor University will be surveying the coast of Wales as part of the ERDF-funded Secamas2 project, being conducted in partnership with Swansea University.

The researchers intend to include surveys of shipwrecks located around the Welsh coast as models for what might happen to any structures placed in the same or similar areas of the seabed.

Sonar images of the historic wrecks, taken from the University’s research vessel, Prince Madog, will reveal how the tides and currents have removed or deposited sediments around the wrecks on the seabed, according to the University of Bangor.

The oceanographers can then learn how the presence of structures on the seabed can change how sediments are carried in the water or deposited, and over what sort of timescales.

One of the lead researchers on the project, Michael Roberts of the Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences, said: “It is well understood that submerged structures such as wrecks and MRE devices will affect the flow of water around themselves, depending on the design of the structure, as well as the strength and direction of the tidal flow and the type of seabed on which they sit.

“There are ways to model such effects but as with all such techniques, you need observational data to help validate and refine these models so that they can provide crucial information to the marine renewable energy sector at finer scales and over longer timeframes.

“It is hoped that the data will also improve our understanding of marine processes across a range of sites throughout Welsh waters and provide developers with answers to some basic but very important questions.”

Roberts added the project is also exploring how submerged structures can act as artificial reefs, and how different materials influence bio-fouling.

“It is hoped that this research will also support the sector in terms of designing infrastructure and developing effective and efficient monitoring systems and strategies to better understand the relationships between marine life and engineering structures on the seabed over time,” Roberts explained.

The research is also expected to benefit the heritage and tourism sectors in Wales by enhancing the understanding and appreciation of Wales’ rich maritime history, associated with major conflicts of the twentieth century.

To remind, Seacams2 project received £12 million from the Welsh government back in September 2016.

The goal of the project is to develop a network of coastal observatories that would collect the information relevant to potential renewable energy developers.

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