Another Plan Mulled to Raise Sunken Sea Diamond off Santorini

The National Herald

'Sea Diamond' sank on April 5, 2007 in Santorini, Greece. Public domain photo, released by its author.

SANTORINI - In April, 2020 it will be 13 years since the state-of-the-art cruise ship Sea Diamond sank after hitting volcanic rock off Santorini, with two French passengers dying, and now another Greek government is trying to decide whether to raise it from the deep.

A shipping ministry-affiliated public ports authority intends to launch another international tender for the marine salvage of the ship that went under next to the island’s iconic Caldera inactive volcano but the budget has soared from 55 million euros ($61.25 million) to 350 million euros ($389.75 million) not included Valued Added Tax in just over a month since it was considered, said the business newspaper Naftemporiki.

There’s not been any environment assessment of the extent of the damage or marine pollution in the intervening years and no study has been made either how or if the vessel can be raised, the paper said.

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 onboard, the ship was towed offshore and sank.

A seabed survey of the accident area commissioned by the cruise line found that rocks hit by the ship were not marked on the official map. Louis said the chart was drawn in 1989 and included up-to-date official corrections.

A Greek court convicted nine of 13 for their role and imposed suspended sentences ranging from six months to just over 12 years, and acquitted another four defendants. The strictest sentence -12 years and two months was handed to the ship’s captain for causing an accident, negligence that led to manslaughter, and marine pollution.

The vessel lies 90 meters (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.

The then-Greek government said in 2011 it could not afford the operation and Louis Hellenic would have to cover the cost but 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.