Saturday, 12 January 2019 10:13

Zenobia Wreck Story

The Zenobia Wreck has a lot of stories associated with her ill fated voyage through the Med, and with every year the conspiracy theories seem to get more extravagant and the truth somewhat stretched.

Zenobia was built at the Kockums Varv AB shipyard in Sweden and was delivered to her owners Rederi AB Nordo in late 1979. She left Malmo, Sweden on her maiden voyage bound for Tartous, Syria on 4 May 1980 and was loaded with 104 tractor-trailers with cargo destined for the Mediterranean and the Middle East. She passed through the Strait of Gibraltar on 22 May 1980, stopping first at Heraklion, Crete and then to Piraeus, Athens, Greece. On the way to Athens the captain noticed steering problems and Zenobia began listing to port. Following checks, it was determined the list was caused by excess water that had been pumped into the ballast tanks, this water was pumped out and she then departed for her second to last stop at Larnaca, Cyprus before reaching Syria.

She arrived at Larnaca on 2 June 1980, where the ballast problem had reoccurred, engineers discovered that the computerized pumping system was pumping excess water into the side ballast tanks due to a software error, making the list progressively worse. On 4 June Zenobia was towed out of Larnaca harbor to prevent her becoming an obstruction should the worst happen and was left at anchor roughly 1km offshore. On 5 June, with the ship listing at around 45° the captain dismissed the engineers and maintenance crew and requests from the Captain to return her to Larnaca harbour were denied.

Zenobia Wreck diving

At around 2:30am 7 June 1980 the Zenobia capsized and sank in Larnaca Bay to a depth of roughly 42 meters (138 ft) taking her estimated £200 million worth of cargo with her. There were no casualties in the disaster.

According to local legend the Zenobia's owners never collected the insurance money and no formal investigation has ever been published. It was not the maiden voyage of Zenobia Ship, but her first to the Med. Her history and the intrigue over her sinking deserve an article on their own but to give you an idea the rumours range from computer error and insurance scams to Middle Eastern security forces.

The most popular theory though surrounding the sinking of the Zenobia Wreck was it's computerized ballasting system, as this reportedly developed a fault while on route. A specialised ferry maintenance team was sent aboard the Zenobia to correct the problem and successfully managed to correct the list to 5%. However, at 5pm on the same evening of the 6th June 1980 the Captain mistakenly dismissed them and dispatched them back to land.

It is known that the Captain committed suicide some weeks after the sinking.

The marine life in and around the wreck is unique, and the Zenobia dive site is currently rated amongst the top ten wreck dive sites of the world.

Diving the Zenobia wreck is an absolute must for all serious certified divers visiting Cyprus. 

The Zenobia has two decks, three lorry decks and two stern doors (1 port, 1 starboard), powered by two 7 cylinder, single acting, oil-fired two strokes engines. They delivered 18,760 bhp.