By Elli Ioakim
THE Larnaca Tourism Board (Etap) said on Friday there was a need to further research a theory that the Israeli and British secret services were in fact behind the sinking of Zenobia, a ferry that went down off Larnaca in 1980.
According to Etap, the theory was explored in a documentary by Fabien and Celine Cousteau, grandchildren of the famous naval officer and explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
The documentary ‘Zenobia shipwreck, Mystery of the Spy Sabotage’ premiered on Science Channel (by Discovery Channel) recently. It was part of the ‘Legends of the Deep’ series by Fabien and Celine Cousteau.
The two naval explorers dived in Larnaca to research a theory supporting that the Zenobia was purposely shipwrecked by Israeli and British secret services. Military equipment indicating that the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) was a possible receiver was found in the shipwreck.
According to the documentary, the theory is reinforced by the fact that the vessel had started its voyage from Yugoslavia with Syria as its final destination, while PLO members were being trained at the time in Yugoslavia.
“Someone wanted to shipwreck Zenobia” said Fabien in the documentary while his sister Celine stated that “the mystery around Zenobia is still alive.”
“Based on a few different indications the theory could be real,” said Director of Zenobia AAK Larnaca-Napa Sea Cruises Andreas Panayiotou.
Etap said that this theory ought to be further investigated.
The tourism board said that Zenobia was one of the five top locations for shipwreck diving worldwide, attracting more than 100,000 divers annually and was a big tourist attraction for Larnaca.
As next June will be 40 years since the Zenobia sank, events will be taking place to mark the anniversary.
Zenobia is the largest shipwreck in the Mediterranean at 174 metres long, 28 metres wide and 21 metres high. Its hold contained 108 lorries full of cargo such as cars, military equipment, telecommunication systems, air conditioning systems, toys and food. It was also carrying a million eggs, many of which are still intact on the seabed.
The ship left Malmo, Sweden on May 4, 1980 headed for Syria, through Gibraltar and on to Greece where the captain reportedly noticed steering problems. Investigations cited excess water that had been pumped into the ballast tanks, which was taken out and the ship headed for its second-last stop in Larnaca where it arrived on June 2, 1980 and the same problem recurred. The ship was using a computerised pumping system and the problem was put down to software error. Two days later the ship was towed out of the harbor and anchored over a mile out. The next day on June 5, the vessel was listing heavily but it was refused access back into port. It finally capsized around 2am on June 7 and has remained 42 metres down ever since.
According to some reports, the Zenobia’s owners never collected the insurance money and no formal investigation was ever carried out.