Billion ringgit offer to bring up treasures
By Jason Gerald John
MALACCA: The state government has again offered a billion ringgit deal to the private sector to salvage treasures from sunken ships lying in the sea off Malacca.
About 13 ships, comprising merchant ships and warships that sunk in the strait about 500 years ago, have been identified and its treasures are estimated to be worth billions of ringgit.
Among them are the Middleburg, which sank on Aug 16, 1606; Wieringen (June 2, 1636), Franeker (Jan 18, 1642), Bambeek (Jan 12, 1702), and Overduin (June 27, 1784).
They are located off Tanjung Tuan, Tanjung Kling, Tanjung Pinang, Pulau Undan and Permatang Rumput, respectively.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said investigations showed the vessels could have sank during Malacca's heyday as a trading port.
"We are interested in salvaging these sunken treasures which are believed to be worth billions of ringgit but we have no monetary resources as it takes some RM3 million to salvage treasures from one single vessel.
"This is why I am seeking the help of interested private shipwreck salvagers to help the state bring up the treasures and they will be rewarded for their efforts.
"Half the treasures which are salvaged must be handed over to the Federal Government while the remaining half could be shared equally by the state government and the private company undertaking the salvage works," he said.
He was speaking to reporters after the weekly state executive council meeting yesterday. In 2004, porcelain believed to be more than 200 years old was salvaged from a shipwreck about two nautical miles off the coast of Limbungan.
The artefacts, dating back to the 1800s, are believed to be shards of two vases from China and Vietnam, and were salvaged by Royal Malaysian Navy divers after being detected a sonar scan. The search and salvage operation is estimated to have cost the state government about RM171,000.
It was also reported that at least six Portuguese ships might have sunk along the Malacca coastline and these do not include 12 shipwrecks discovered off Tanjung Tuan by a local salvaging company, Serene Zone Sdn Bhd, and several others off Pulau Upeh.
Ali said he had been making a similar offer since 2000 to shipwreck salvage companies to help uncover the treasures from the depths of the Straits of Malacca but there were no takers. "If there are no takers after this, we might ask the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Culture, Art and Heritage, to help us salvage the treasures as these could also be national heritage items," he said.