Ship sinking: human error

The announcement has confirmed government suspicions.


The Sea Diamond sank after slamming into well-marked rocks last Thursday.

Nearly 1,600 people, including hundreds of American tourists, were evacuated from the ship, but two French tourists are missing and feared dead, officials said.

The ship's captain and five other crew members have been charged with negligence.

"The incident was a result of human error, but so are 75 per cent of all accidents at sea," said Giorgos Koubenis, a representative of Louis Cruise Lines.

It was the first time the company had commented on the probable cause of the April 5 accident.

Mr Koubenis said the Sea Diamond was one of the company's premier ships.

"We only acquired it last year," he said.

Also today, Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said he had ordered efforts to stem an oil leak from the sunken ship to be intensified.

A remote-controlled submersible continued to search the hull to try and identify the source of the fuel leak, which has already spilled more than 100 tonnes of oil into the sea near the Athinios port.

The effort was hampered by the ship's unstable position; the 10 storey high vessel is face-down on an undersea slope, with most of the hull more than 100 metres below the surface.

Some 400 tonnes of oil are still inside the ship, threatening environmental damage at the onset of the busy summer season.

"Santorini must return to the way it was before the accident," Mr Kefaloyiannis said. "The (pollution) situation is under control for the moment. The safety net around the site is being expanded."

Meanwhile, the Greek sea captains' association spoke out in defence of the accused crew members.

"Once again, the captain has been made a scapegoat and has been blamed even before his account (of the event) was heard," the Masters and Mates Union of the Greek Merchant Marine said in a statement.

"The captain is a very capable and highly regarded colleague. … Of course the fact that two passengers were not found fills us with sadness. (But) the evacuation was carried out successfully," it said.

The association cited a 2003 study by the National Technical University of Athens that listed Santorini among 17 Aegean Sea ports lacking proper docking facilities.

The Sea Diamond sank in Santorini's sea-filled volcanic crater – known as a caldera – about 15 hours after the rocks tore a hole more about 30 metres long in the side of the ship.

Missing French tourists Jean-Christophe Allain, 45, and his 16-year-old daughter, Maud, had a lower-deck cabin near the spot where the ship struck the reef, authorities said.

Mr Allain's wife and son survived the accident.

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