Saturday, November 03, 2007
Cypriot company Louis Cruise Lines blamed a nautical map for the sinking of its cruise ship after it hit a reef near the Aegean island of Santorini, but the mapping agency rejected their conclusion. The 22,412-tonne Sea Diamond sank in April a day after hitting a reef just metres off the island's coast as it tried to dock. More than 1,500 people were evacuated but a French man and his daughter went missing and are presumed dead. Company officials, who had initially said human error played a considerable part, now said they were convinced it was the "incorrect mapping" of the area that caused the sinking. "A hydrographic survey showed the reef stretched for 131 metres from the shore. The (existing) nautical map showed the reef stretching only for 57 metres," Louis Cruise Lines shipping operations chief Giorgos Koubenas told reporters.The Hellenic Navy's Hydrographic Service, which is responsible for the maps, rejected the claim. "There may be some changes to the seabed or small margins of error but these maps are accepted by all international bodies," an official who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. "It was the captain's responsibility to be careful." The existing map was first issued in 1989 and updated several times since, Koubenas said. "That is the reason the ship struck the reef," he said. Asked why no other ship, trying to moor at the busy island, had struck that reef, Koubenas said every cruise ship's approach was different. Koubenas said Louis, which had ordered the survey and received the results on Thursday, had sent them to state authorities.Company lawyer Giorgos Iatridis-Ramadanis said the new finding did not affect insurance payments as Louis had already collected the insurance for the accident. The company and the captain have been fined a maximum 1.17 million euros ($NZ2.08 million) by Greece's Merchant Marine Ministry for causing environmental pollution around the island. Iatridis-Ramadanis said they have appealed against the fine. A Greek prosecutor has charged the captain and five other crew with negligence leading to the sinking. The trial has not yet started pending inquiries. The prosecutor, conducting the ongoing investigation, has also received The new findings, Iatridis-Ramadanis said.