Following the sinking of the double bottomed oil products tanker Agia Zoni II (1597 gt, built 1972, IMO 7126152, Greek flagged, owned and managed) off the island of Salamis near Piraeus, Greece, on 9th September, with over 2,500 tons of oil on board, and the resultant pollution of many kilometres of shoreline including some of Greece’s most popular beaches, the operation to raise the wreck was successfully completed on 29th November.
It is now being towed to the shipyards in Ambelaki on Salamina island as part of the investigation into the reasons that caused it to sink. It is being escorted by anti-pollution vessels and tugs, as well as coastguard vessels, and an oil boom has been placed around the location it is to be transported to as a precaution.
The vessel is being guarded on a 24-hour basis, and the expert report and all inspections will be supervised by the 5th Piraeus Examining Magistrate. Simultaneous preliminary inquiries are being carried out by Coast Guard’s Piraeus headquarters and the Hellenic Bureau for Marine Casualties Investigation.
“Essentially, the generating cause that would in any case produce pollution as long as the specific ship remained there has ceased to exist,” said Deputy Shipping Minister Nektarios Santorinios. He added that this was the first application of environmental law in the case of shipwrecks in which the sunken ship itself is seen as an environmental pollutant. The example should be followed for other recorded shipwrecks in the sea surrounding Piraeus, he added. When asked last week when the cleaning of Attica coastal regions affected by the September 2017 spill would be completed, he stressed that the work would be done by the weekend. Also due by mid-December were the results of samples taken by the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) from the seabed and living organisms in the areas of the sea affected by the spill, he said.
The shipping expert and a prosecutor who examined the vessel determined the presence of a large gash in its hull. Experts involved in an inspection of the ship said that it appears to be in good condition, and that some dents to the hull could have occurred during its removal from the seabed, although they did not rule out the possibility that it sustained the damage by hitting rocks when it was sinking. However, a video indicated that, apart from the dents, the hull had sustained a large gash around 1.5 metres in length.
The owner of the vessel, Thodoris Kountouris, insists that the tanker was entirely seaworthy, and that is sank due to foul play. He has asked that an independent expert investigate how the vessel sustained the gash. A prosecutor who has been tasked with determining the circumstances that led to the vessel’s sinking has yet to complete his investigation.