The ship with its 15 crew members left the port of Volos, loaded with 2.600 tons of concrete, early in the morning of the 2nd of October 1983 for the port of Piraeus and final destination Algeria. The weather conditions were good but during the evening became overcast with rains and strong North gales. In the evening the ship had a 7 degrees list to the right which continued to increase as the time was passing by. Due to these conditions, while being 12 nautical miles north of the islet Pontikonisi, the ship changed course for a safe anchor, which with the suggestion of the fishing vessel Giannakis was Panormos in Skopelos island. When it finally arrived in Panormos, at about 16.00 of the 2nd of October 1983 the waves had broken one of the portholes of the bridge. As a result the bridge had flooded and the list on the left had increased in 17 degrees while there was influx of water in the hold No1. The ballast pump and a portable one were used to pump the water but the level of the water in the hold was not lowering. At about 22.00 the list of the ship increased that much that the right gunwale was in the water. The captain contacted the ship owners and the operations chamber of the Ministry of commercial shipping, operations chamber gave order to abandon the ship, while himself, the second lieutenant and a boatswain remained on the ship, with the help of the vessel Giannakis, checked the depths in Panormos to founder the ship. But there where many variations in depth so there was the fear that the ship could split in two. On the 3rd of October 1983 the tries to save the ship were futile so the captain gave order to abandon the ship, boarding on Giannakis vessel.
Christoforos sank in an upright position at about 05.30, in a depth of 43 meters [1].

Christoforos, a ship built to carry black diamonds

With the beginning of the steam age the need for fast coal transfer was critical for any advanced navy. This need gave birth to the collier ship, a ship built to carry the black diamonds essential for keeping the empires fleet on the move, and feeding the voracious appetite of the fast expanding industrial London.

On the North East of the UK the Durham and Northumberland coalfields supplied a rapidly expanding London with vast tonnages of coal, and a large fleet of coastal colliers travelled up and down the east coast of England loaded with the “black diamonds” [2]


The first iron hull, water ballast and steam screw propulsion collier was built in 1852, and one of its innovations was that it was fitted with ballast tanks which meant water could simply be pumped in, greatly reducing the turnaround time, compared to the time consuming sand ballast which no longer needed to be loaded and unloaded [3].

The cost to build John Bowes was £1000, 10 times the cost of a sailing brig, but she carried as much coal on a round trip to London of 5 days as the brig would carry in 2 months [4].

In many cases gas and electricity works where built on stretches on Thames unreachable by conventional ships thanks to low bridges crossing the river. Originally coal was unloaded from colliers to lighters for the last stage of the journey, but the extra handling was costly and reduced the quality of the coal. To serve these facilities was developed the low-air-draught, upriver collier or ‘flat iron’ [5].


The main characteristic of these ships is the main deck which is continuous all fore and aft, with stores and crew accommodation below deck and the wheelhouse as low as possible so it can pass through the low bridges of Thames.


The funnel is hinged and all the masts telescopically lowered into the hull. The cargo hold had sloping wing ballast tanks, so that the cargo flowed by gravity to the discharging grabs, thus providing expeditious handling of the coal [6].


A flat iron colier unloaded, it is apparent the very low silhouette

Chronology of the ship Christoforos

Thomas Hardie was ordered by the North Thames Gas Board to the Grangemouth Dockyard Co. and was completed on January 1950.

In 1968 it was sold to the Stephenson Clarke Sg Ltd and renamed as Birling.
In 1975 it was bought by Puma Sg Co Ltd and registered in Limassol, Cyprus.
In 1976 it was sold again to Christincoast Cia Naviera SA and registered in Piraeus, Greece [7].



[1] Shipwrecks in the Greek seas 1951-2000.
[5] Coasters: An Illustrated History by Roy Fenton, page 74.

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