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Video: Drug-Smuggling Freighter Sunk as Artificial Reef off Florida

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Courtesy Customs and Border Protection

By The Maritime Executive 2019-06-25 20:33:00

The 1965-built freighter Voici Bernadette was seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in a drug bust in Miami last year, and she has just begun a new life as an artificial reef off the coast of Fort Pierce, Florida. 

Diving associations, economic development groups and seaside municipalities in Florida favor reefing projects for the wildlife habitat and tourism opportunities that they create. Prominent examples off Florida's coast include the former aircraft carrier USS Oriskany - the world's largest intentionally scuttled artificial reef - and the former amphib USS Spiegel Grove. About 3,300 artificial reefs are registered with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and more are added every year. 

On Monday morning, the Bernadette was sent below at a position about 10 miles east of the St. Lucie nuclear power plant. Boaters were invited to watch the occasion, and a local harbor cruise boat offered those without their own vessels the chance to attend the sinking for $100. 

Two tugs towed the Bernadette out to position Monday morning and set her anchor to keep her in the designated position. The project crew pumped water into her holds to reduce her stability, then departed as she began to flood through holes in her hull. She gradually listed to port, then quickly slipped below once water overtopped her cargo hatches.