Friday’s Fact About: Zenobia Ship Wreck


The Zenobia Ship Wreck, found off the coast of Larnaca, is the most popular diving site in Cyprus.  In fact it has been named one of the top wreck dive sites in the world!  Divers can explore the wreck, who’s contents have never been salvaged, and can visit the accommodation section, the restaurant (where it’s drinks machine and tartan carpet are still visible today) the cargo decks and more.  Marine life at the wreck site is also beautiful and includes gruppa, barracudas, turtles and more – dolphins have even been spotted on occassion too.

* Our 8509 discount cards offer you a fantastic special rate for diving in Cyprus: Click herefor more details *

The history of the 178m roll on, roll off ferry should not go unforgotten:

Zenobia sunk on 7th June 1980

Facts at a glance:

Date of sinking: 7 June 1980                                                                                                       Port of Registry: Sweden                                                                                                                     Destination: Syria                                                                                                                   Length: 178m                                                                                                                                       Beam: 28m                                                                                                                                       Tonnage: 10 000                                                                                                                                 Cargo value: £200 million                                                                                                                   Wreck depth: approximately 42 metres


And so the story goes…

The Zenobia was built at the Kockums Varv AB shipyard in Sweden and was delivered to her owners Rederi AB Nordö in late 1979.  She left Malmö, Sweden on her maiden voyage, bound for Tartous, Syria on 4 May 1980, loaded with 104 lorries with cargo destined for 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 the 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 was pumped out and she then departed for her penultimate 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 computerised pumping system was pumping excess water into the side ballast tanks due to a software error, making the list progressively worse.  On 4 June, the Zenobia was towed out of Larnaca harbour to prevent her becoming an obstruction should the worst happen and was left at anchor roughly 1.5 – 2 km 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.

At around 2:30am 7 June 1980, the Zenobia capsized and sank in Larnaca Bay to a depth of roughly 42 metres (138 ft), taking her estimated £200 million worth of cargo with her.

According to local legend, the Zenobia‘s owners never collected the insurance money and no formal investigation has ever been published.  Since sinking she has become a popular dive site for visitors to Cyprus and was named one of the world’s top ten dive sites by The Times in March 2003.  There were no casualties in the disaster.

The cargo value of the 104 lorries is estimated at £200 million.


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