What Caused the Sinking of the Cruise Ship Oceanos?

By Alice Nichols

On November 4th, 1991, the Oceanos passenger cruise liner became one of the most talked-about maritime disasters in South African waters when it sunk off the coast of East London. Hundreds of passengers and crew members on board were left stranded in the open sea.

The Oceanos was owned by Epirotiki Lines and was built in Norway in 1965. It had been newly renovated and refitted with modern amenities for a luxury cruise ship experience. The ship was carrying 571 passengers and crew members from Durban to East London when it suddenly lost power due to an electrical failure.

The captain, Yiannis Avranas, noticed that the ship was taking on water and he made several attempts to get help from nearby ships. However, his distress calls were not answered as they were out of range or too far away to help. As a result, the crew managed to evacuate everyone onto lifeboats while they waited for assistance from the South African Navy.

What Caused The Sinking Of The Cruise Ship Oceanos?

The investigation into the sinking of Oceanos revealed that a combination of factors led to its demise. Firstly, there was an electrical failure which caused a power outage and shut down all systems on board.

This resulted in the loss of navigation control which meant that the ship could not be steered safely away from danger. Secondly, it was found that there had been some maintenance issues with regard to regularly checking its engines and fuel tanks which had been neglected for some time.

Finally, it is believed that poor communication between captain Avranas and his crew may have played a role in the disaster as he did not clearly communicate his plans for dealing with the situation or provide clear instructions on what needed to be done.


The sinking of Oceanos was caused by a combination of electrical failure, maintenance issues, and poor communication between captain Avranas and his crew. All these factors together resulted in this maritime disaster which left hundreds stranded at sea until they were rescued by South African Navy personnel.