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SEA DIAMOND DISASTER: Greece plans lifting, new Tender of 434 Million Euro, Unmapped Rocks cause of the sinking?

c: A.Papanarchos

More than 12 years after the sinking of the "Sea Diamond" cruise ship in the Caldera of Santorini, the state has made concrete steps to lift it for the first time. 

The Port Authority has announced a budget tender of 434m euros, claiming that the amount will be charged to the shipowners to whom the ship belonged or, if they refuse, to the insurance company. 

No move, however, will be made before the money is raised and before a lifting plan is approved by the project developer.

"It is the largest ship-lifting operation ever undertaken in our country," estimates Dimosthenis Bakopoulos, commander of the Ministry of Maritime Port Authority. Recent developments have been initiated by the Council of State (CoE). “We started in spring 2018, accepting the opinion of the Chamber of Environment. According to it, shipwrecks are legal waste and bottom-up bans are prohibited by international conventions. However, we had to wait for the International Appeal for Environment and Culture of Santorini to hear the appeal and the Steering Committee for Sea Diamond Lifting at the CoE, against the (tacit) refusal of the Ministry of Shipping to proceed with the investigation. shipwreck. Finally, the CoE's decision was a waste of time because it permanently shattered the argument that lifting is not legally binding. The Supreme Court of Appeal has made it clear that the State is simply forbidden to do anything, whatever the technical solution. "

The Port Authority commissioned experts to estimate the cost of lifting the wreck. 

They estimated a minimum cost of 50m euros and this budget marked the first time that a tender was declared, which was declared barren. 

A few days ago the tender was announced again, this time with a budget of € 434 million. "The State has the right to turn against the shipowners, the shipowners and the 'insolvent' against the insurers and to charge the sum against them," Mr Bakopoulos said. "If the shipowners fail to pay the amount voluntarily, then we will be penalized, but also with measures to freeze personal property."

According to him, the State will be able to collect the amount in just 2-3 months. "There is no risk that it will not be recovered," he estimated. "In order not to be surprised, there is a condition in the tender that the contractor will not start before we receive the cost of the operation." The competition is due by the end of January.

In April 2020, it will be 13 years since the state-of-the-art cruise ship Sea Diamond sank after hitting a volcanic rock off the Greek island of Santorini, resulting in the death of two French passengers. The current Greek government is now trying to decide whether to raise the wreck from the deep. The vessel, owned by Louis Hellenic Cruises, ran aground along the coast of Santorini with nearly 1,200 passengers and 400 crew. Following an evacuation of everyone on board, the ship was towed offshore and sank. After a lawsuit had been filed against them, investigations were carried out by the defence team of the Master of the Vessel and Louis Cruise Lines, which included a new hydrographic survey of the accident area in Santorini. 

This survey was carried out by Akti Engineering who discovered discrepancies between the actual mapping of the sea area and the official charts used by the Sea Diamond (and all other vessels) at the time of the accident. The detailed survey claimed that the reef struck by the Sea Diamond was actually located 131 metres (430 ft) from the shore and not at a distance of 57 metres (187 ft), as was incorrectly marked on the nautical chart. The official chart also showed that the depth of the water at the area of impact varied from 18–22 metres (59–72 ft), whilst the recent survey shows that it is only 5 metres (16 ft).

New Mapping Rejected

The findings obtained by Akti Engineering have since been passed on to the Hydrographic Office of the Hellenic Navy and other responsible authorities, with the aim of bringing about the necessary changes to maritime charts  and preventing similar accidents. According to a branch reviewing source, the Hellenic Hydrographic Office initially rejected the new mapping, but a later study confirmed Akti's findings. 

The vessel is lying 90 metres (295 feet) below the surface where the two French tourists, a 45-year-old man and his teenage daughter, disappeared and were presumed drowned, although their bodies were never recovered. In 2011, the Greek government then in power said it could not afford the salvage operation and Louis Hellenic would have to cover the costs. However, the company said government maps were inaccurate, causing the ship to strike an underwater rock and sink within hours, Seatrade Cruise News said. The ship’s fuel was removed in 2009.