Sea Diamond Captain, Officers Charged with Negligence

April 8, 2007

Divers Search for Missing Sea Diamond Passengers
Louis Cruise Lines' Sea Diamond: A Brief History
Under the Captain's Table's Joyce Weighs In
Greek Ship Sinks; Two Passengers Missing
Passengers Evacuate Listing Greek Cruise Ship
Travel Guard Offers Free Help to Evacuees
Update: Greek state-run TV reports that Sea Diamond's captain blamed currents for Thursday's accident, according to CNN.

"I felt the ship, which had been on a normal course, slip to the right because of sea currents," Greek TV quoted him as saying, according to the Associated Press via CNN. "I gave the order for a full turn left. But there was not enough time for the ship to respond." The captain admitted in an interview that he attempted to free the ship from the reef before evacuating passengers as required by international rules, the prosecution official told CNN.

Australia's Sydney Morning Herald reports today that Greek authorities have announced plans to sue the cruise line.

(April 7, 12:13 p.m.) -- The captain and five officers of Louis Cruise Lines' Sea Diamond have been charged with "causing a shipwreck through negligence," according to media reports.

The six officers were also charged with "breaching international shipping safety regulations and polluting the environment," CBS News reports. All were released pending further investigation; the captain, chief mate, second mate, third mate, chief cabin steward and housekeeper had been arrested after the incident.

If convicted, the officers face a maximum sentence of five years.

On its approach to Santorini on Thursday, the 21-year-old Greek cruise ship struck volcanic rocks, took on water and listed 12 degrees. Passengers were evacuated in a three-hour rescue operation; some complained of an insufficient supply of life vests and little guidance from crewmembers, according to CNN. The vessel sank on Friday at around 7 a.m. local time. As of this morning, two passengers, whose cabin flooded with water after the ship hit the rocks, are still unaccounted for.

Joyce Gleeson-Adamidis, our Under the Captain's Table columnist who's been corresponding with us from Greece, says, "Currently the investigation continues for the two missing. Today, the captain and officers from the bridge at the time of the accident along with the chief and assistant housekeepers, the hotel director and his assistant from the Sea Diamond, have been brought to Naxos. Naxos is the central location for jurisdiction in this area.

"The captain is a young man who was recently promoted to his position."

According to Giorgos Stathopoulos, a spokesman for Louis Cruise Lines, "The vessel maintained the highest level of safety standards and was equipped with the latest navigation systems," CBS reports.

At this point it is difficult to say why the ship sank, Teijo Niemela, editor of Cruise Business Review and a Cruise Critic contributor, tells us -- but it is possible that the ship could have been saved had it been in shallower water. As an example, Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas similarly grazed a reef while departing St. Maarten back in 1998; like Sea Diamond, some watertight compartments were flooded, but the ship was intentionally grounded on a sandbar to prevent further sinking.

The water off the coast of Santorini, however, is quite deep; in particular, the rocks that the ship hit are part of a deep sea-filled crater formed by a volcanic eruption 3,500 years ago.

In other news, Louis Cruise Lines has announced that it has appointed a company specializing in the prevention and management of sea pollution to work with local Greek authorities in preventing any possible environmental consequences around the wreck.

Stay tuned to Cruise Critic for the latest information.

--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor

A special thank you to Cruise Critic reader Paul H. Swarter for the above image of Sea Diamond.