An expert's advice: how to avoid the death-trap ferries

There are still too many decrepit boats plying the Greek islands, Simon Calder is told

Britain's leading expert on Greek island hopping has condemned Greece's maritime safety standards. Frewin Poffley told the
Independent on Sunday that the local authorities' rules were lax, and their inspections sloppy, and named several ferries which, he said, should be avoided - including some with "dreadful reputations" that had recently altered their names.

Britain's leading expert on Greek island hopping has condemned Greece's maritime safety standards. Frewin Poffley told the Independent on Sunday that the local authorities' rules were lax, and their inspections sloppy, and named several ferries which, he said, should be avoided - including some with "dreadful reputations" that had recently altered their names.

Mr Poffley urged travellers to be cautious about using the vessels plying between the islands, following the Express Samina disaster. Visitors to the islands, he advised, should take steps to find out the age of ships before buying tickets. Many of the boats had seen years of service elsewhere in Europe before ending their days in Greece. "All boats built before 1970, both passenger ferries and tourist boats, should be forced into retirement," Mr Poffley said.

At present, the maximum age allowed is 35 years. The Express Samina, which sank on Tuesday with the loss of more than 60 lives, was 34 years old.

However modern a ship might be, said Mr Poffley, the standards of government safety checks needed to be improved dramatically. "At the moment they clearly aren't rigorous enough. Survivors of the Express Samina were reported as saying that lifeboat lights didn't work, that oars disintegrated when they attempted to use them, and that some of the inflatable liferafts didn't work. Yet this ferry is reported to have passed all her safety checks. One can only conclude that current inspections amount to little more than looking to see if lifeboats, oars and lights are there. No one seems to go further and ascertain if they actually work."

After two cases of severe overcrowding in the mid-1990s, when ferries set sail with twice as many people as they were legally allowed to carry, the Greek government introduced a computerised ticketing system designed to limit numbers.

But Mr Poffley, who during the past 10 yearshas travelled many thousands of miles on hundreds of ferries to research a guidebook, said the move did not go far enough. "Passenger names must appear on all tickets, and all passengers must have a ticket, even if, as is the case for children under the age of five, it doesn't cost anything," he said.

There is also a big danger in ferries with a poor reputation being able to change their names, as happened with the Express Samina - a vessel previously known as Golden Vergina and which he had described in his book as "arguably the worst Greek ferry afloat".

The sister ship to the Samina, now named Express Naias, also had a name change, being previously called Naias II. "I would now strongly recommend that island hoppers avoid this ship," he said.

Mr Poffley also pointed out two other boats. " Ialyssos, which serves the Dodecanese, is, like the Expresses, a 1966-built vessel. Access to and from the car deck to the deck-class saloon is very poor. She would be a difficult boat to evacuate quickly." The other ship, the ferry formerly known as Anemos and now called the Myrtidiotissa, runs along the Peloponnese to Kithera and Crete. "I have heard that in recent weeks she is again looking distinctly the worse for wear," said Mr Poffley.

He said holidaymakers, unaware of the name changes, could be put at risk. "The Golden Vergina turned into the Express Samina long after the current edition of my guide, Greek Island Hopping, went to press, and I'm conscious there could well have been people [on the Samina] who would not have checked our website (linked to the book, at www.greekislandhopping.com) and so weren't aware of the name change, and travelled - and possibly died - on a boat that they would otherwise have avoided. It's a very sobering thought when all you're trying to do is help people have a good holiday."

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kellie Bright as Linda Carter and Danny Dyer as Mick Carter

EastEnders Christmas specials are known for their shouty, over-the-top soap drama but tonight the show has done itself proud thanks to Danny Dyer.

Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Sport
sport
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy
tvCall the Midwife Christmas Special
Sport
Laura Trott and Jason Kenny are preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there