Ferry crews in Greece have announced a 24-hour strike on September 13th, following a tragic incident this week at the country’s main port of Piraeus. A delayed passenger lost his life after an altercation with a Blue Horizon crew member, which resulted in his falling into the sea.
While the Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation didn’t directly link the strike to Tuesday’s tragedy, which garnered widespread anger and condemnation in Greece, they have expressed deep concerns about the safety and labor conditions within the industry. In a statement, the union deplored the alleged improper implementation of shipping and harbor safety regulations, highlighting the fact that crew members are often overworked. Ferry schedules are also often “unreasonable.”
These concerns, according to the union, pose significant safety risks for the ships themselves, the passengers, and the itineraries. The union has demanded that the state take prompt actions to safeguard human life at sea.
The Federation members emphasized that the Greek sailors are known for their exemplary seamanship. Furthermore, they have called it “unacceptable” that “all Greek Sailors should be accused and targeted for arrest on the occasion of this tragic event.”
Finally, the federation noted that the whole situation is aggravated by “real shortcomings and characteristics of ports,” especially island ones. The union said that the island’s infrastructure stayed “literally left in the ’60s.”
Tragic Incident, Public Anger, and Official Reaction
The tragic death of a ferry passenger, Antonis Kariotis, who was pushed into the water by crew members at the Piraeus port, has sparked widespread shock and outrage. Thousands gathered for rallies in Iraklio, Crete, demanding justice and condemning the crew and Attica Group, the ship’s owner, with chants of “murderers.”
A viral video circulating on social media depicted Kariotis attempting to board the ferry while the loading ramp was down. Crew members forcibly prevented him and pushed him back multiple times. As a result, he fell into the sea. Despite passengers alerting the crew that a man was in the water, the ferry initially departed as scheduled. Authorities later ordered the ferry to return to Piraeus, and Kariotis’ lifeless body was recovered.
The ferry’s captain and three crew members are now facing homicide charges. One crew member is charged with manslaughter, possibly with malice, while the other two are accused of complicity in the manslaughter. The captain faces charges of dangerous interference with maritime traffic, a felony.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed his disgust and horror over the tragedy, promising accountability and justice. An internal investigation into the Port Authority of Piraeus’ handling of the incident has been initiated, with authorities noting violations regarding the loading ramp.