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HOUSTON: A decommissioned Navy warship USNS General Hoyt S Vandenberg has been intentionally sunk off the Florida Keys to create the world’s second largest artificial reef which will serve as a long-term habitat for several marine fish species.

The 17,250-tonne ship USNS Vandenberg sank in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary on Wednesday in less than two minutes, said Andy Newman, spokesman for the Florida Keys Tourism Council.

“It went down like a rock,” Newman was quoted as saying by CNN. “Everything looked very, very smooth.”

The goal of the $8.6 million project is to divert fishing and diving pressure away from natural reefs, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Vandenberg was built in 1943. It was commissioned as a World War II troop transport ship. After Japan surrendered, the Vandenberg was the first Navy ship to return to New York Harbour.

During the 1950s, the ship was used to transport refugees from Europe and Australia to America. In the 1960s the Air Force used the Vandenberg to track missiles. It also was used to track rockets and early space shuttle launches.

The ship, which was decommissioned in 1986, featured in the 1999 movie Virus, starring Donald Sutherland and Jamie Lee Curtis.

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