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Samina Ferry Disaster Haunts Greece More Than 20 Years Later

Samina ferry disaster
The wreck of Samina remains at the bottom of the Aegean Sea. Public Domain

The disaster involving the sinking of the ferry boat Express Samina on September 26, 2000, off the coast of Paros which claimed the lives of eighty-one people still haunts Greece.

The ferry remains at the bottom of the Aegean Sea and, despite government promises that the shipwreck would be removed, it 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 thirty-four years of service changed many owners as well as routes in the Mediterranean Sea.

It was September 26, 2000, when, owned by Greece’s Minoan Flying Dolphins, the ferry boat left for its route between Paros, Naxos, Ikaria, Samos, Patmos, and Lipsi in the Aegean Sea.

The ferry departed from the port of Piraeus with 533 people on board, 472 passengers, and 61 crew members.

Samina Samina ferry disaster
Eighty-one people perished when Express Samina hit a rock near Paros. Credit: Peter J. Fitzpatrick, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikipedia

Just after 10 p.m. local time, Express Samina was approaching the port of Parikia on the island of Paros, with very strong winds of eight Beaufort raging.

Ferry 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 to avoid collisions with other vessels.

The crew had deployed the fin stabilizers system to minimize motions in inclement 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.

Samina Paros islets
The Portes islets off the bay of Parikia which the ship collided with. Credit:  Templar52/Wikipedia

Two nautical miles off the port of Parikia, the ship hit the reef of Portes islets at a speed of eighteen 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 twenty-five minutes, leaving only a few minutes for passengers to prepare.

The first who reached the point to help were fishing boats from nearby ports, followed by 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, eighty-one people lost their lives in the Samina accident.

Samina sinking
Map of the collision course of Express Samina. Credit: Sisyphos23 , CC0, Wikipedia

As a result of the Samina sinking, Greece’s laws changed, forcing ferries to retire after thirty years instead of the previous thirty-five, but these laws were eventually relaxed again due to the aging Greek fleet.

On November 29, 2000, Pandelis Sfinias, the Minoan Flying Dolphins manager, committed suicide by jumping out of his sixth-floor office 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 were also charges of negligence and manslaughter.

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