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.
Owner: Rederi AB Nordö
Port of registry: Sweden
Builder: Kockums Varv AB, Sweden
Acquired: Late 1979
Maiden voyage: May/June 1980
Identification: IMO number: 7806087
Fate: Sank, June 7th 1980
Type: Challenger-class Roll-on/roll-offferry
Tonnage: 10,000 GRT
Length: 178 m (584 ft)
Beam: 28 m (92 ft)
Draught: 13.01 m (42.7 ft)