Cruise Ship Captain Receives 12 Year Jail Sentence in 2007 Ship Sinking

August 1, 2013

(3:55 p.m. EDT) -- A Greek court sentenced the captain of Louis Cruises' Sea Diamond, which sank off the coast of Santorini in 2007, to 12 years and two months in prison and fined him 8,000 euro. Five other defendants were sentenced, though none are expected to serve jail time.

Sea Diamond sank April 6, 2007, a day after colliding with a reef. The ship continued sailing but began listing about half a nautical mile from the Aegean island of Santorini. All of the ship's 1,195 passengers and 391 crew were evacuated except for two French passengers, whose bodies have never been found and are presumed drowned.

According to the English-language Greek online newspaper, the court also sentenced the navigation officer, chief engineer, a security officer, the company's legal representative and an inspector/auditor. All received between six and 34 months. The court suspended several of the sentences and allowed others to pay them off.

Three others were acquitted of all charges.

In 2007, Louis Cruises claimed that ship navigational maps, provided by the Hellenic Navy's Hydrographic Service, showed the reef was farther from shore and larger than estimated. A 2007 geographic survey, done after the accident, showed the depth of the water in the area of the impact to be only 5 meters. The official nautical chart showed depths varying from 18 to 22 meters.

The Hellenic Navy's Hydrographic Service rejected the cruise line's claim and Greece's Merchant Marine Ministry fined the cruise line's parent company Louis Group and the captain a total of 1.17 million euros for environmental pollution.

In 2008, a new survey by the Hydrographic Service found that Louis' claim was correct, but according to the Maritime Accident Casebook Web site, a council of Greek military officers absolved the Navy of any responsibility for the sinking. Instead, the council blamed the incident on negligence by ship officers because the ship's depth sounder was not on at the time of the accident.

Sea Diamond remains at the bottom of the sea.

Louis Cruises told Cruise Critic it is appealing the decision. "Maintaining their full respect and trust in the independence of the Greek Judicial system, the Ship owners and Ship managers of MV Sea Diamond have appealed against the decision of the first degree court with the certainty that the remaining charges against those employees not already cleared, as well as the legal issues set in the decision, will be dropped by the Higher Court of Appeals and they will be eventually vindicated."

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor