Trade, Transfer of Raffaello Parts Illegal

Salvaging the ship's parts is illegal under UN regulations and environment officials have not authorized any such activity
The ship has become an integral part of the Persian Gulf ecosystem.The ship has become an integral part of the Persian Gulf ecosystem.
SS Rafaello was built in the 1960s and sold to Iran in 1975

Following reports of attempts to extract and trade parts of SS Raffaello, the Italian single-screw steamship sunk in the waters of the Persian Gulf, Iran's cultural heritage officials declared that the trade or transfer of the ship's parts is against the law and will result in prosecution. 

"Iran is party to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage and so the trade of Raffaello's parts is illegal," said Nasser Amirzadeh, the head of Bushehr Province's office of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.

SS Raffaello and her sister ship SS Michelangelo were two of the last purpose-built ocean liners designed and constructed in the 1960s for Italian Line. Both ships were sold to Iran in 1975 and suffered grim fates.

Michelangelo was scrapped in 1991 after it was deemed too dilapidated for renovation, while Rafaello—which had served as a floating barracks off the coast of Bushehr—was torpedoed to the shallow depths of Persian Gulf in 1983 by Saddam Hussein's forces during the 1980-88 Iraq-imposed war.

The ship was looted for parts during the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the eight-year war with Iraq.

Amirzadeh noted that arrangements have been made to prevent the sale of parts in other provinces. He stressed that his office will take legal action against looters and traders of the ship's parts. 

"We will spare no effort to keep the valuable structure intact and prevent the exit of its parts from the province," he said.

Rafaello is now among the province's top historical heritage sites.

Bushehr's ICHHTO office is also making efforts to inscribe the ship as national heritage site and has submitted the dossier to the central ICHHTO. 

"The inscription of the ship will make way for it to be used as a tourism attraction," he said, adding that it will also help bolster its protection.

  No Permit to Salvage the Ship

Despite reports of looting the ship's parts in recent days, an official at the Department of Environment said they are only aware of a single item being extracted from the ship.

"We're only aware that the ship's propeller was removed and taken to Isfahan," Davoud Mirshekar, the head of DOE's Marine Ecosystems Office, told IRNA. "No other item has been taken out of the water."

Mirshekar said the department has not authorized salvaging Rafaello or its parts, so even the propeller was taken out illegally.

"The ship is down there for around 30 years and has become an integral part of the ecosystem. Removing it or its parts can be damaging," he said.

"The DOE's stance is clear: We're opposed to salvaging the ship."


My father worked for the Italian Line and I travelled on this ship, as well as the other Italian greats, many times as a child. It saddens me to even think that some governing body other than Italy itself is dictating what is permissible. Granted, I don't like the fact that looters are trying to make money off the wreck, but those parts if anything, should be returned to Italy for inclusion in a maritime museum. I get that the twins were purchased but historically speaking they are ITALIAN, not Iranian. Also, get your facts straight, the Raffaello was not "single screw", it had two propellers.

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