United Nations experts have refuted claims made by a US marine archaeologist that a wreck off Haiti was Christopher Columbus's flagship "Santa Maria" which he used for his first voyage to the Americas.

"There is now indisputable proof that the wreck is that of a ship from a much later period," the UN cultural body, UNESCO, announced in a statement on Monday. 

"Although the site is located in the general area where one would expect to find the Santa Maria based on contemporary accounts of Columbus's first voyage, it is further away from shore than one should expect," experts said in a final report.

US underwater explorer Bill Clifford announced in May he believed he had identified the wreck of the Santa Maria, one of the three ships Columbus led on his first crossing of the Atlantic.

Clifford told The AP news agency last month that UNESCO did not consult with him before publishing the report and he expected it to raise doubts. But he said he still believes the wreckage could be the ship that struck a reef and was abandoned in December 1492.

"Furthermore, and even more conclusively, the fasteners found on the site indicate a technique of ship construction that dates the ship to the late 17th or 18th century rather than the 15th or 16th century," the UNESCO statement said.

UNESCO sent a team of experts to Haiti at the demand of the government to examine the remains found in the very area where Columbus said the ship ran aground more than 500 years ago.

The wreck is located off the town of Cap-Haitien in the country's north.

Source: Agencies