Sinking of Greek Bunker Tanker Draws Accusations of Sabotage, Illegal Bunkering Practices – Ship & Bunker

PEMEN is now calling for the buyer of Agia Zoni II’s cargoes to be revealed. Image Credit: Hellenic Coast Guard

In the latest twists following the sinking of bunkering vessel Agia Zoni II earlier this month off the Port of Piraeus, Greece, there are now suggestions that the vessel’s sinking may have been the result of sabotage, and that the vessel may have been involved in illegal bunkering practices, Greek media reports.

As Ship & Bunker previously reported, the tanker sank on September 10, loaded with 2,200 tonnes of fuel oil and 370 tonnes of marine gas oil at the time.

The matter had already taken an unusual turn after the captain and chief mechanic of the Lassea, a ship involved in clean-up operations for the spill, were arrested on fuel smuggling charges.

Two other vessels, the Aegean Breeze II and the Syros have since been brought in to help collect the removed oil.

Now, the maritime workers’ union PEMEN is calling for the owner of the oil aboard Agia Zoni II to be revealed after the vessel owner, Theodoros Kountouris, said he did not pay for it – a fact PEMEN says could be an indication of a possible cover-up of illegal bunkering practices.

The exact circumstances leading to the vessel’s sinking are still under investigation, but is understood to have resulted from the engine room taking on water.

It has been suggested that there was a malfunction in relation to the piping used to bring seawater onto the vessel for engine cooling, while Kountouris has speculated the sinking may have resulted from an act of deliberate sabotage by his competition.

And alongside theories that the vessel was deliberately scuttled, comes a report by Proto Thema suggesting that the vessel may have been fitted with a special piping system to bring seawater onboard to replace a missing – or misappropriated – volume of bunkers, with the failure of this system ultimately leading to the vessel sinking.

The Greek Minister of Shipping, Panagiotis Kouroumblis, who is already under considerable political pressure and has reportedly offered to resign over the fiasco, this weekend faced further criticism after video surfaced appearing to show him dancing at a March 4 event held by Kountouris.

The video was originally posted on Kountouris’ wife’s Facebook page along with comments suggesting that they were celebrating her husband’s name day, a common tradition in the country.

The opposition party says it is evidence that the minister’s relationship with the Agia Zoni II owner is too close.

Kouroumblis has since released a statement confirming his identity in the video, but says the event in question was part of a separate function involving the Greek Shipbuilding Industry Association.

Meanwhile, authorities say they are continuing to make progress on cleanup operations, but warn that worsening weather conditions could displace the vessel and cause another spill.

Some 700 cubic meters of oil are reported to be still onboard the vessel.

Last week, Ship & Bunker reported that experts had suggested that the Agia Zoni II may not have been seaworthy, and the Greek authorities may not have the capacity to conduct specialised checks on old vessels of its type.

Ship & Bunker News Team

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