MS Express Samina

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"Express Samina" - Piraeus, 2000.jpg
Express Samina in Piraeus, 2000
 France  Greece
  • 1966-1982:Corse
  • 1982-1999: Golden Vergina
  • 1999-2000: Express Samina
  • 1966—1969: Compagnie Generale Transatlantique[2]
  • 1969-1976: Compagnie Generale Transmediterraneenne[1]
  • 1976-1982: SNCM[2]
  • 1982—1999: Agapitos Lines[1]
  • 1999—2000: Minoan Flying Dolphins [2]
Port of registry:
Yard number: F23[2]
In service: 25 June 1966[2]
Out of service: 26 September 2000[2]
Identification: IMO number: 6613548[2]
Fate: Hit the rocks off the coast of Paros island 26/9/00[2]
Notes: Sister ship of MS Express Naias
General characteristics [2]
Length: 115.00 m (377 ft 4 in)
Beam: 18.11 m (59 ft 5 in)
Draught: 4.36 m (14 ft 4 in)
Decks: 11
Installed power: 2 × Atlantique–Pielstick 16c (10,945 kW)
Speed: 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph)
  • 1,500 passengers
  • 170 cars

MS Express Samina (Greek: Εξπρές Σαμίνα) was a French-built roll-on/roll-off (RORO) passenger ferry that collided with a reef off the coast of Paros island in the central Aegean Sea on 26 September 2000. The accident was caused by negligence by the crew, for which several members were found criminally liable, and resulted in 81 deaths [3][4] and the loss of the ship.

Ship history[edit]

She was built as MS Corse in 1966 at Chantiers de l'Atlantique, St Nazaire, France[2] for Compagnie Generale Transatlantique along with her sister ship MS Comte De Nice. In 1969 she was transferred to Compagnie Generale Transmediterraneenne. After six years service, the company changed its name again, to SNCM to which she was transferred. In 1982 she sailed from France for the last time as she was sold to a Greek company, Stability Maritime, to operate their Italy-Greece-Israel route under her new name MS Golden Vergina.[1] In 1988 she was sold to the Agapitos Bros for service in the Aegean sea without name change under Agapitos Lines. In 1999 she was sold to Minoan Flying Dolphins, again for service in the Aegean, renamed Express Samina.


Collision course of MS Express Samina

On the evening on Tuesday 26 September 2000, MS Express Samina left the port of Piraeus with 473 passengers and 61 crew members. At 22:12, 2 nmi off the port of Parikia, Paros, the ship hit the reef of Portes islets[5] at 18 knots. The wind at the time was 8 on the Beaufort scale. The ship sank near there at 23:02, resulting in the deaths of 82 people from a total of 533 on board. The first responders to the distress call were fishing boats from the nearby port, followed by the port authorities and the Royal Navy destroyer HMS LIVERPOOL. The fact that some of the crew did not help the passengers evacuate the sinking ferry contributed to the death toll.[5]

The crew placed the ship on autopilot and did not have a crew member watch the ship. Even with autopilot on, standard practice calls for one crew member to watch the controls, for example to avoid collisions with other vessels. The crew deployed the fin stabilizers system to decrease the motions in bad weather; normally both stabilizer fins deployed, but in this case the port stabilizer fin did not deploy. This caused the ship to drift and therefore not travel in a straight line. A crew member discovered the problem and, at the last minute, tried to steer the ship to port. This action occurred too late. At 10:12 P.M. the ship struck the east face of the taller Portes pinnacle. The rocks tore a six-meter long and one-meter wide hole above the water line. After that impact, the rocks bent the stabilizer fin backwards, and the fin cut through the hull through the side, below the waterline, and next to the engine room. The water from the three-meter gash destroyed the main generators and ended electrical power. Professor David Molyneaux, a ship safety expert, said that the damage sustained by the MS Express Samina should not normally sink such a ship. The ship sank because nine of the ship's eleven watertight compartment doors were open when safety laws require ship operators to close and lock the safety doors. The water spread beyond the engine room, and due to a lack of power the operators could not remotely shut the doors. Molyneaux described the open watertight doors as the most significant aspect of the sinking.[6]

Chronology of the sinking[edit]

The Portes islets off the bay of Parikia, which the ship impacted with.

At 10:15 PM, three minutes after impact, the ship listed by five degrees to starboard. By 10:25 PM, the list increased to fourteen degrees and the six-meter gash received water from the sea. By 10:29, the ship listed by twenty-three degrees; this prevented the launching of additional lifeboats. Three of the eight lifeboats were launched. At 10:32, the ship listed by 33 degrees. By 10:50, the ship lay on its side. Since the clock on the bridge stopped at 11:02, authorities knew that the ship sank at that time. The degree of damage, the scenario, and the open vehicle deck space in RORO ferry design led to the sinking.[6][7]


Panoramic view over the bay of Parikia, with the Portes islets visible on the left.

The port-master of Parikia, Dimitris Malamas, died the same night by heart attack due to the stress of the evacuation operations.[6][8]

After the disaster, ferries are retired after thirty instead of thirty-five years now under Greece's new laws precipitated by the disaster. These laws have now been relaxed due to the aging Greek fleet, but ships over 30 years old must comply with strict safety standards, and regular inspections are carried out by authorities. In addition this hastened adoption of voyage recorders, the equivalent of black boxes for ships; laws required all passenger ferries to contain voyage recorders.[6]

On 29 November 2000, Pandelis Sfinias (Παντελής Σφηνιάς) the manager of the company Minoan Flying Dolphins committed suicide by jumping from his sixth floor office window.[9] He had been charged with criminal negligence in conjunction with this ferry disaster, and had been the focus of much media attention. A subsequent coroner's report revealed alcohol and antidepressants in his system at the time of his death. There was no note, but media reports hinted at a possible call made before he jumped. Several crew members, as well as representatives for the owners, were subsequently charged with different criminal charges, including manslaughter and negligence. The trial commenced in late July 2005.

First officer Tassos Psychoyios was sentenced to 19 years, while Captain Vassilis Giannakis received a 16-year sentence. Psychoyios had been watching a football match on television when the ship hit the rocks, according to witnesses. Three crew members were sentenced to between 15 months and eight years and nine months for a series of misdemeanours that included abandoning ship without the captain’s permission.[10]

The City of Seattle honoured 26-year-old Heidi Hart and 32-year-old Christine Shannon, two American passengers, for heroism during the disaster. The women had rescued two men.[6][11]

In popular media[edit]

Mayday (Crash Scene Investigation) aired an episode about the disaster; it was called "Collision Course" in Canada and "Greek Ferry Disaster" and "Express Samina" in other countries. Heidi and Christine were interviewed for the Biography Channel show I Survived..., as well.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]