The real story of the Shipwreck of Zakynthos


Reportage: Sotiris Skouloudis –

A story that has it all. Smuggling with Greek-Italian mafia competition practices. Hidden trips between Africa and the south of Italy, to the steep shores of the Ionian Islands. And, as is often the case in these “stories”, disagreement over sharing, hostage-taking with weapons and “piracy”. And, finally, the “purification”, with the maritime adventure ending in a real shipwreck, which now stands on a Ionian coast and is one of the most emblematic in the world.

The reason, of course, is the Shipwreck of Zakynthos, the famous attraction of the Mediterranean, which has made this beach – now inaccessible to pedestrians – as the trademark for the whole country.

The shipwreck, left in this corner of Zakynthos by a blow, as we will see, of fate, today is in danger of being a thing of the past and lost in the oblivion of history. 40 years is a lot for rusty and salt-stained sheets and, if nothing happens, then it will sink into the sand now that it has escaped the bottom of the Ionian Sea.

Although the local authorities universally recognize its value, they are at odds over the ownership of the area and therefore the Shipwreck (Municipality, church, individuals and emirs are arguing for its possession), and where such situations prevail, traditionally, the result is that the property of the Greek people remains unexploited and ruins, until, in this case, the final destruction. brings to light, for the first time, all the details about the dramatic, as you will see, events that led “Panagiotis”, as the ship is called, to be shipwrecked in the infamous and hitherto unknown land of Zakynthos.

The purpose is for the data, the testimonies of all those involved in the Coast Guard, the first signs of the authorities and the initial expert reports, as well as other, unknown “cinematic” aspects of this modern “pirate” story to be pages of modern history of the island. . And to highlight, of course, the importance of rescuing him.

These anecdotes are the result of many months of research in four countries involved (Greece, Italy, Tunisia and Malta) by the special lifting expert and ship inspector Georgios Antonatos, who has many years of international and international experience in launching and ascending ships.



The real story of the shipwreck

Let’s take the facts from the beginning, and let’s tell the story, as it appears from the testimonies of the 9 members of the crew (the seven Greeks and the two Italians).

On September 13, 1980, the merchant ship “Panagiotis”, anchored in Argostoli, was preparing to set sail for Piraeus, where it would receive supplies, to continue its usual journey. But the plan is changing. The shipowner and master seem to be making a deal under the table with Camorra of Italy, changing the composition of the ship at the last minute without declaring the actual occupants of the port as it should be, and the ship finally departs directly to the open of Tunisia. .

Why there; Because that’s where the “appointment” for 1,295 boxes of cigarettes was made. Each box contained 50 packs of cigarettes and was worth a total of $ 200,000, a very large sum for the time, since, if all this was tax-free in the Italian market, the profit for the carrier (ie the smuggler) made the risk worthwhile. to be undertaken…

But as with the pirate agreements once in the Mediterranean, so with the most modern smugglers, “reason” and “inside” probably have no place in the easy and direct profit that everyone can make for themselves. . As long as he becomes the prefect of booty and sells it on his own terms, to his own client.

During his trip, “Panagiotis” is being inspected by the Italian Coast Guard, off Naples, but there does not seem to be any misconduct. Shortly afterwards, two Italians boarded a boat to play the role of intermediaries and inspectors to make sure that the cargo from Africa would reach Italy.

The ship continues its journey and off the coast of Tunisia it now moors the “San Giorgio” boat, which delivers the goods to it. Next destination is the port of Vaia in southern Italy.

The “piracy” of the master

Or, at least, that’s how it was planned; however, the pirate’s demon prevailed. The Greek captain, on the pretext that the ship’s fare has not been paid by the Italian partners, in consultation with the shipowner, takes hostage the two Italians who were members of the crew and the ship begins to head to Greek territorial waters. with still unknown destination…

Earlier, he allegedly tried to blackmail a Greek-Italian partner into asking for an additional $ 16,000 from his Italian counterparts for the trip.

The original plan was to hand over the cargo to Italian smugglers off Napoli.

As soon as the Italians learn to change plans, they react and object. The master then detaches, according to one version, a Beretta weapon from them (!) And threatens them. According to another version, the weapon was his and he threatened them directly. He then orders the crew members and locks them in their cabins.

They will stay there for the rest of the trip until the ship hits the rocks, with crew members accompanying them under the threat of a gun in the toilet and feeding them from the… finisrini άλλη According to another testimony, however, the master “did not abuse them. and in fact they ate together with everyone else in the dining room “…

We did not exempt the cargo from the Italians. We returned to Greece until they paid the fare “, says Varvatakos in his testimony.

And, according to his testimony, the threat with the gun was not exactly a threat:

The plan was to deliver the cargo to another ship, in the waters of the Ionian Sea. However, the engine “struggles” until the ship is driven into Greek waters, with continuous damage, which was the harbinger of what was to happen…

From the radio of “Panagiotis” the slogan “Pepe-pepe” is constantly broadcast, which, after the negotiations between the smugglers, would be perceived by the other ship that would receive the cargo. Indeed, the other, unknown ship catches the signal and responds with the coordinates where the meeting would take place.

“Panagiotis” is again at sea for its new destination. However, the hours pass, and finally the engineer informs that the engine needs to be repaired urgently so that it does not go out permanently. Meanwhile, the shipowner sends them a boat with three men with food. As a token of gratitude for their efforts, the men who delivered the food received 6 boxes of cigarettes from the rich merchandise.

“Panagiotis” remains ungovernable

It arrives on the night of October 1, 1980. The ship is off the coast of Zakynthos. The weather is bad and the winds are strong. Most sleep in the ship. A deafening knock is heard from the engine room – it was the machine’s deadly roar. The ship remains unmanned.

Aeolos, now, is the governor of “Panagiotis” and decides to turn it to the rocks of the steep bay of Zakynthos. A few minutes before the wireless, the master, awake, emits SOS, but the batteries have been saved and it stops working. He then throws a naval flare into the air, which is not noticed by anyone.


“At 04:30 on 02/10/1980 I woke up from a concussion and saw that the ship was hitting the rocks. I called on the captain to drop the anchor so that the ship could be rectified in time, he told me not to do anything and that he was the captain. The ship, pushed by the weather, ran aground – before it ran aground we had thrown a raft into the sea. “

“I woke up a quarter before the quake, that’s why we were rescued. Pelos and I got off the bike and in our attempt it took about 10 turns and the result was that the ship escaped from the rocks and slowly ran aground on the sand “.

The men throw two lifeboats into the sea. However, they do not manage to board.

“We wouldn’t fall on the rocks if the master woke up earlier because we had a stern” is an excerpt from the dramatic descriptions of the events.

It is noted that the ship’s cook, although he had the opposite orders, released the two locked Italians in time, who were rescued along with the others. “They’re human too,” he replied to the master when he started cursing him for his action.

Shipwrecks in Zakynthos

The whole crew, lucky in their misfortune, is on an unknown beach, in the dark, but everyone is fine. “We took blankets to sleep and the next day the captain ordered us to open the barns where we found that the cargo had taken water and had fallen to the left. We took 280 cartons of cigarettes to the shore, which we covered with the ship’s tarpaulin “…” is the description of what happened the next day with the first light…

However, the weather continues to be bad and as is well known, walking on this beach is almost impossible. The nine men remain on the beach and wait for two whole days, unable to move either ashore, in the interior of Zakynthos, or towards the stormy sea, with their rafts.

“We stayed there until 03/10 in the morning, when the sea calmed down and then we left with the boat. After 6 hours of paddling, we reached a cove further north. “

The captain earlier orders them to save what is left of the ship’s holder, which has been filled with water and, under Italian protests, unload 280 boxes on the beach.

The 9 men, in two “doses” and with the rafts, reach another bay, and from there to the village of Volimes and then to the port to report the event, of course not being able to do otherwise, since the shipwreck has begun. already spreading.

Heading there, through the bus, one of them manages to throw the revolver out of the window into a field, which was never found.

It is noteworthy that, as they state, the 280 boxes that were saved remained on the beach. Many more were found by the port to float… The customs that arrived at the beach a few days later, however, found only 28…

The crew said that during his stay on the beach he saw at least two boats, 300 meters away, watching them from afar.

The rest of the boxes were taken by the locals who arrived at the spot.

The sequel is more or less known…

Was there a way to save the ship and prevent a shipwreck? The following are the answers of crew members.

Sailors say they regret their involvement in the incident

And of course, other things had been agreed to be submitted for the first time, “warmly” by the Greeks of the crew, and others finally ended up saying – probably the truth – a few days later in the additional deposits ordered by the Coast Guard.

And the Italians initially hid the real facts, under a regime of fear and intimidation ουν They state, however, that they would hand over the cigarettes legally, that is, by paying the duties, to their compatriots in Naples…

The first autopsy report of the Shipwreck:

See some of the Coast Guard Signs:

The witness, George Antonatos, in his testimony on, describes the way in which he collected the relevant data, while ringing the alarm bell, stating that, if the shipwreck is not maintained immediately, then it will definitely be a thing of the past…

Watch the video:

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