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."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
    Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

    The end of an era across the continent

    It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
    Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

    'Focus on killing American people'

    Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
    Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

    Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

    The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
    Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

    Same-sex marriage

    As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
    The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

    The Mafia is going freelance

    Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable