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The History of Curaçao's Superior Producer, and How it Met an Untimely End

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Photo: Curaçao Maritime Museum

One of Curaçao’s most popular dive sites, and one of the Caribbean's top wrecks is the Superior Producer, located just West of the Curaçao Main Pier. Today, the ship is in danger of severe damage or being rendered forever off-limits to divers by the development of the new Curaçao MegaPier. Bryan Horne of Dive Curacao takes look at the history of this iconic ship, and how it came meet its untimely end

The MV Superior Producer started life as the MV Andromeda (IMO nr. 5345431). It was built in 1957 as coastal cargo ship by Handel & Scheepsbouw Maatschappij Kramer and Booy NV, from Kootstertille, Netherlands. Measuring 50.22m (165ft) in length and 7.79m (25½ft) in width, with a maximum draught of 2.58m (8½ft), this 400-ton freighter was delivered on 8 November 1957 to Muller and Reitsma NV, from Rotterdam, Netherlands. On 22 February, 1962, she was sold to Rederij L Remeeus NV, from Rotterdam, Netherlands when she officially became known as the MV Superior Producer.

The ship had a rather mundane existence, picking up and dropping off cargo all along the Dutch coastline. The vessel changed hands several times over the years, until 13 November 1970, when the MV Superior Producer was sold to Pan-Ven Line SA, and re-flagged to her new home port in Panama with the sole task of moving cargo between Willemstad (Curaçao) and Pampatar (Venezeula), a city on Isla Margarita.

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Photo: Curaçao Maritime Museum

On 30 September 1977, the MV Superior Producer arrived early in the morning and docked on the inside of Curaçao Harbour (St. Annabaai) just past Queen Emma floating bridge. It was loaded with a Christmas cargo consisting of whisky, bottles of perfume, clothing and bags, destined for two local Curaçao merchants looking to profit from the upcoming holiday season.

At 13:30, on fateful Thursday afternoon, the crew of nine men of Venezuelan and Colombian nationality, cast off the lines. The ship Immediately began to heel dangerously, at which point the captain ordered a portion of the cargo, not properly stowed, to be thrown overboard. This did not help, and the situation was further complicated because the crew neglected to close the portholes, and the Producer began taking on water. Even the efforts of the Curaçao Port Authority tugboat to pull the boat upright again had no effect.

After several unsuccessful attempts, the harbourmaster, fearing for safety of the crew and ultimately for the harbour itself, decided to cease all rescue efforts. The tugboat dragged the MV Superior Producer about 500m  (1,640ft) west outside the harbour entrance. At 16:30, three hours after cast-off, the MV Superior Producer disappeared below the waves and into the turquoise depths, about 150m (500ft) from shore. During this same period, the captain and crew safely abandoned the ship and were picked up by a boat from the harbour police.

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Photo: turtleandray.com

Word of the sinking spread across Curaçao like wildfire! Scuba divers, free-divers and snorkelers alike arrived on the shoreline from all over the island to scavenge the wreck for all its cargo – it was described as 'pure chaos' at the time – and within a few days, there was nothing left. Even the neglected portholes were gone.

Today, the wreck sits quietly upright on its keel, with her bow facing west in roughly 30m (100ft) of water and about 150m (500ft) from the shoreline just west of the Curaçao Mega-pier. As an advanced shore or boat dive, the easiest approach is from the stern due to the possibility of the prevailing currents.

As you descend the fringing reef, an eerie dark shadow starts to appear. At first, you only see the stern, but then the entirety of this magnificent 50m (165ft) mass with its superstructure rising to within 21m (72ft) of the surface reveals itself, covered in a vast kaleidoscope of colour. Now, with roughly 30 years of growth, the MV Superior Producer is an amazing artificial reef site home to numerous colonies and different species of corals, sponges, gorgonians and sea whips. Because of this, it is a natural attraction for schools of predatory fish such as tarpon, barracuda, snappers and jacks.

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Photo: turtleandray.com

This is also a heaven for macro photographers and anyone who likes to get a close look at smaller stuff too. Caribbean spiny lobsters, parrotfish, French and queen angelfish, turtles, scorpionfish and even morays. Look closer for banded coral shrimp, nudibranchs, flamingo-tongue shells and sometimes even frogfish. Basket stars, octopus and large spider crabs catch the eye while night diving this beautiful shipwreck too.

With its wide-open cargo holds and accessible wheelhouse, the MV Superior Producer has become renowned as one of the top shipwrecks in the world, rivalled only by the likes of the SS Thistlegorm in the Red Sea and the World War Two wrecks in Palau, but sadly a new chapter in the wreck's history is in progress. A new Megapier, larger than the existing one, is being constructed almost directly on top of this glorious shipwreck.

Oddly enough, a little-known fact is that in 2001 a new Mega-pier was also scheduled to be built, but Curaçao authorities at that time changed their mind to protect this priceless artificial reef… maybe an intervention can still happen. Unfortunately, the local Curaçao government has pressed ahead with the construction of a second pier, despite objections from the island’s dive community and conservation groups. Currently, the Superior Producer is a closed dive site and considered a no diving zone.

 

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