Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ferry Express Samina

Express Samina (Greek: Εξπρές Σαμίνα) was a RORO passenger ferry (built in 1966) that operated in Greece and sank in the evening (23:02) on Tuesday 26 September 2000 near the island of Paros. Eighty-two of the over 500 passengers (473 passengers and 61 crew members according to Discovery Channel) were lost at sea. The fact that the crew did not help the passengers evacuate the sinking ferry contributed to the death toll.

The crew placed the ship on autopilot and did not have a crew member watch the ship. Even with autopilot standard practice calls for one crew member to watch the controls since the wind and currents drag the ship to a degree that cannot be compensated by the electronic systems. The crew deployed the stabilizer 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 left. This action occurred too late. At 10:12 P.M. the ship struck the east face of the taller 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 Samina should not normally sink a like 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.

Chronology of the sinking
At 10:15 PM, three minutes after impact, the ship listed by five degrees port. By 10:25 PM the list increased to fourteen degrees and the six meter gash received water from the ocean. 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 space in the RORO ferry design (other vessels lack large, open spaces, so a sinking is less likely for them) lead to the sinking.

Passengers were apparently unaided by the crew in evacuating, and there was wide-spread panic among them. It was questioned later if the crew were engaged in a televised sporting event at the time. Inflatable life rafts blew away in the windy conditions as soon as they were inflated, before anyone could board them; only four of the ship's eight solid lifeboats were able to be launched before the ship's tilt prevented further launches. Some passengers also jumped from the ship, while ten bodies were found still trapped in the hull.

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