Fourteen years after the Sea Diamond sunk taking with it 3 human lives and after it was abandoned on the sea floor of Santorini, it continues to corrode and release dangerous toxic substances in the marine ecosystems. Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation has been on the side of the local community since the first day of the sinking, stressing the need for the removal of this toxic waste. After 14 years of inaction, mockery of the citizens and inadequacy of the national authorities, the only conclusion is that the defense of the public interest has never been a priority for the political leaderships in Greece.
Brief overview of the non recovery of the Sea Diamond:
- The shipwreck remains for 14 years hanging on a steep cliff on the seafloor, even though it has been characterized as a “toxic waste”.
- 14 years later and it still continues to pollute the marine ecosystems, in one of the most important marine regions in the Mediterranean,
- Apart from the petrol and its by-products that end up in the water surface as they have never been removed, key pollution hazard are the water soluble toxic substances that originate from the corrosion of the toxic materials that are contained in the Sea Diamond wreck. Although these materials continue to pollute daily, the pollution is not visible in contrast to petrol, but is still extremely dangerous.
- According to research by the Technical University of Crete, a sample of fish that was collected from the area of the wreck contained very high concentrations of dangerous heavy metals including mercury and cadmium,
- The ship-owner company (based on Marshall Islands) benefited from 6 million dollars for its insurance in order to pump the petrol contained in the wreck. It is indicative that out of the 145 cubic meters that were presented as the petrol that was removed, analysis of samples in the General Chemical State Laboratory, was shown to contain 99% sea water and only 1% petrol.
- The ship-owner received 55 million dollars from the insurance for the total loss of the ship, a ship that was purchased 2 years prior to that for 35 million dollars. Soon after, a new ship was purchased which continues the same cruises as the Sea Diamond. In contrast it is interesting to compare this management with other equivalent cases of wrecks aboard: In the case of the Costa Concordia that sunk in 2012 in Italy, the Italian authorities forced the ship-owner to recover the wreck within 14 months paying over 1 billion euros for its removal and eventually recycling.
Consequently the message we give as a country to every ship owner of this level of moral is that the sinking and abandoning of ships in Greek waters is a profitable business – since anywhere else on the planet (both in Europe and the US as well as in the so-called developing countries) most shipwrecks are recovered almost immediately to avoid pollution.
- In 2011 the «International Action for the Environment and Culture of Santorini», Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation and the municipal authority of Oia of Santorini, appealed to the Greek Council of State on the issue of the hazard due to the non-salvaging of the wreck· The decision 1820/2019 of the Greek Council of State, according to which the Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy has an immediate and independent obligation to initiate the lifting procedures of the Sea Diamond, is defiantly ignored by the national authorities. This is happening although big international companies for shipwreck salvaging have submitted relevant offers in 2019, in a process that was halted from the Ministry Of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy, for reasons of jurisdiction.
- The incredibly slow and inefficient legal process that started over 10 years ago and is yet to be completed, seems to impact not those who caused this wreck and have so far only benefited from it, but all of us who are called to attend every court case in Piraeus, to testify as witnesses, from Archipelagos Institute, from the citizens’ organizations of Santorini island and from the Technical University of Crete, with great effort and cost, and until now not having reached any result.
- Even today in the port of Santorini, one of the busiest touristic ports of the Mediterranean, no measures have been taken for over 14 years to avoid or manage a possible future case of a cruise ship or other equivalent accident.
In conclusion, the abandoning for 14 years of the dangerous shipwreck of the Sea Diamond proves once again that the defense of the public interest has never been a priority for the political leaderships in Greece. Is it an inability to manage, or just a service to interests?
We leave this to the citizens to decide.