Navagio - a word that has become all too familiar to us over the past few weeks as the repercussions of the Samina Express disaster at the end of September continue to affect the island. Last week the shipping companies threatened to keep their ships in port for 24 hours to protest the adverse media coverage of the state of coastal shipping and the Municipality of Paros responded with the counter protest of a planned closure of the port of Paros. Both actions were subsequently cancelled, but illustrate the political climate that currently exists.
The disaster made visible many of the weaker aspects of the shipping industry’s operational framework and this has prompted close examination and criticism of its operations, resulting in demands to improve not only safety, but also functionality and efficiency. In this respect, Paros’ (that is, the Municipality’s) specifically-defined series of demands include: the establishment of an authority with the participation of all interested parties for the issuance of shipping licenses, the implementation of regular training and safety drills for crew members, passenger information regarding emergency procedures and equipment, compliance with the requirement to ensure accurate and complete passenger lists, respect of the labour laws regarding the hours worked by crew members, the honouring of speed limits, the earlier decommissioning of boats in service, provisions for passengers with special needs, the regularization of shipping schedules to avoid simultaneous arrivals and departures and to suit the requirements of the passengers year-round and not just seasonally, as well as many other demands that actual procedures comply with already-existing legislation.
Additionally, measures identified that need to be taken in Paros to improve the island’s resources include the creation of a fully equipped emergency station, the provision of personnel, skills and equipment to the Port Police in keeping with the legal requirements, the speeding up of the construction of the new airport, the expansion of the port and the modernization of the Health Centre to meet the needs of both residents and visitors.
In this last respect, Paros has received a generous donation from Germany, where a number of leading companies have pledged to supply equipment to the Health Centre to a value totalling some ten million drachmas. The donation was made during an official visit by the German Ambassador, Dr Kuhna, on 27th October when he came to the island to officially thank the authorities, the fishermen and the people of Paros for their assistance to the 19 German citizens who were passengers on the Samina and to express Germany’s condolences to the relatives of the victims.
Despite the visit of Dr Kuhna and also of the Australian Ambassador, Mr Burns, there is, of course, now some concern as to whether the tragedy will have an adverse effect on Paros’ tourism and all the negative consequences this may mean for our economy. We urge all of our readers, therefore, to think of any ways in which they may be able to influence opinion in their home countries and to ensure that Paros need not suffer further from this tragedy.