FEBRUARY 23, 1980 – THE TRAGEDY OF THE GREEK TANKER IRENES SERENADE

At the Navarino Bay in the southwestern Peloponnese, lies on the bottom of the sea the shipwreck of the Greek tanker Irenes Serenade, which caused one of the major oil spill accidents in Greek waters.
The tanker was built in 1965 by Chantiers de l’Atlantique in St Nazaire, France. The tanker was named Alderaban until 1965
Irenes Serenade loaded with a cargo of 102,660 tons of Iraqi crude oil and en route from Syria to Trieste called in to refuel in Navarino Bay, Greece. On 23rd February 1980, whilst at anchor at the bunkering location, the vessel suffered explosions in the forecastle which set the cargo alight. An oil slick two miles long by half a mile wide spread from the vessel and both the tanker and the surrounding water burned for 14 hours until the following morning when the tanker sank off Pylos Harbour, close to Sfakteria Island. Defying the danger, a local fisherman, Velissarios Karavias, who saw the explosion from the harbor of Pylos, approached the tanker with his boat to save the lives of the seamen. All but two crew members were rescued. A large spill was observed within the bay and a considerable amount of oil was observed in the open sea during aerial surveillance two days after the vessel sank. The continuous seepage of oil from the wreck prompted the decision by the Greek government to use explosives on the wreck to liberate trapped oil. This operation was carried out almost a year after the incident with measures taken to deal with the oil thus released. Contamination of shorelines was negligible. It was estimated that almost 80,000 tonnes were lost into the sea (35,000 tonnes spewed out into the sea, 40,000 tonnnes being burnt and 25,000 tonnes having evaporated. Though there were fears for a large-scale environmental crisis in Navarino bay, the enormous efforts of local authorities along with the ship-owners and the coast guard mobilization limited the damage. (ITOPF)

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