The disaster with the sinking of the ferry boat Express Samina in September 26, 2000 off the coast of Paros Island that claimed the lives of 81 people still haunts Greece.
The ferry remains at the bottom of the Aegean sea and, despite government promises that the shipwreck would be removed, is still lying at the bottom of the sea polluting the area.
Express Samina was a French-built passenger ferry boat. It was built in 1966 and during its 34 years of service changed many owners as well as routes in the Mediterranean Sea.
The ferry departed from the port of Piraeus with 533 people on board, 472 passengers, and 61 crew members.
Just after 10 p.m. local time, Express Samina was approaching the port of Parikia of the island of Paros, with very strong winds of 8 Beaufort raging.
Express Samina placed on autopilot
The crew had placed Samina on autopilot and there were no crew members watching the ship. Even with autopilot on, standard practice calls for one crew member to watch the controls, for example to avoid collisions with other vessels.
The crew had deployed the fin stabilizers system to decrease the motions in bad weather; normally both stabilizer fins would deploy, but in this case the port stabilizer fin failed to extend, causing the ship to drift and therefore not travel in a straight line.
Two nautical miles off the port of Parikia, the ship hit the reef of Portes islets at a speed of 18 knots. A crack of about three meters in length appeared in the right hull of the ship.
Water flooded the ship forcing it to quickly tilt to the right and eventually sink within just 25 minutes, leaving only a few minutes for the passengers to get prepared.
The first who reached the point to help were fishing boats from the nearby ports, followed by the port authorities and the British Royal Navy vessels, which were in the area participating in a NATO exercise.
Disaster as ferry starts sinking
Neither the emergency generator, nor the emergency siren operated, and there was no information from the portable loudspeakers of the ship. Many people jumped blindly into the sea and as a result, dozens lost their lives fighting with the waves. In total, 81 people lost their lives in the Samina accident.
As a result of the Samina sinking, Greece’s laws changed, forcing ferries to retire after 30 years, instead of 35 but these laws were eventually relaxed again due to the aging Greek fleet.
On 29 November 2000, Pandelis Sfinias, Minoan Flying Dolphins’ manager, committed suicide by jumping from the sixth floor of his office’s window. He had been charged with criminal negligence and had been the focus of Greece’s media attention for the ferry disaster.
Many of the crew members, as well as representatives of the owners, were charged with criminal charges, among which negligence and manslaughter.