The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands is cooperating with Malaysia in one project. In this project the state of four Dutch WWII submarines of the Royal Netherlands Navy which lie in Malaysian waters are investigated. Additionally, a fifth submarine which lies in Vietnamese waters is investigated.
Investigating five Dutch WOII Submarines
Partly as a result of developments regarding the three disappeared Dutch wrecks in the Java Sea, the Dutch government is now looking into the state of five Dutch WOII submarines: the Hr.Ms. O 16, Hr.Ms. O 20, Hr.Ms. K XVI and the Hr.Ms. K XVII which lay in Malaysian waters, and the Hr.Ms. O 19 which lays in Vietnamese waters. The Dutch government has been notified by several organisations that also these wrecks are under threat of (commercial) salvaging.
In 2013, we became aware of illegal salvaging operations when a crane vessel was observed over the site of the Dutch submarine Hr.Ms. O 16 with a large amount of salvage material on deck. It was revealed that the O 16 had been salvaged almost completely and only some large debris remained on the bottom. The nearby site of the Hr.Ms. K XVII had also undergone salvage but to a more limited degree. According to divers, the Hr.Ms. K XVII was still very intact in 2014.
In the period of 28 June - 8 July 2019, a Dutch-Malaysian team of maritime archaeologists investigated the wreck sites of the O16 and K-XVII near Tioman Island. It turned out that these two submarines have largely vanished from the seabed due to illegal salvage operations in previous years. A second expedition to investigate the O 20 and KXVI was planned to take place in 2020. Due to the coronavirus pandemic this work has been delayed until further notice. The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, the Dutch Ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs and of Education, Culture and Science, and the Malaysian Ministries of Tourism, Arts and Culture, of Foreign Affairs and of Defence are involved in the investigations.