Launched in 1969 as the Shoyo Maru, the Giannis D was built by the Kuryshima Dock Company of Imabari, Japan. A “General Cargo Vessel” of 2,932 gross registered tonnes, she possessed two cargo holds forward with Bridge and Engine Room at the Stern. Her dimensions were 99.5m x 16m with a draught 6.53m . Her machinery was built by Akasaka Tekkosho KK of Yaizu, Japan and comprised a 6 cylinder diesel engine capable of producing 3,000 BHP and a top speed of 12 knots.
The Giannis D sailed under her original name until 1975 at which time she was sold and re-named the Markos. Interestingly, that name is still discernible on the vessel’s hull and there are those who insist on calling her by the misnomer “Markos D!” Further rumours of another shipwreck called the Markos (sometimes spelled Marcus) also appear from time to time when no such vessel exists. In 1980, the ship was then sold again to the Dumarc Shipping and Trading Corporation of Piraeus, Greece. This was when she was given the name Giannis D and a large capital “D” was emblazoned onto her funnel.
The Loss of Giannis D
In April 1983, the Giannis D was being loaded with sawn softwood at the Croatian port of Rijeka. Part of this cargo was destined for the Saudi Arabian Port of Jeddah, with the remainder to be off-loaded at Hodeidah on the coast of Yemen. It was a beautiful Spring morning as the ship’s Captain ordered the mooring lines slipped and the Pilot guided his charge out into the Adriatic before disembarking a short time later.The journey down through the azure-blue waters of the Adriatic and then across the Mediterranean Sea were uneventful – with the ship in the hands of the Officer of the Watch. They made good time to Port Said where the Captain took charge of his vessel once again.Like any other country, the Egyptian authorities have a number of routine checks for any vessel entering their territorial waters. Although things had been generally quiet for some time, the Arab-Israeli War was still ongoing – making these difficult and volatile times in the Middle East. Naturally, those authorities had to be satisfied that neither contraband nor weapons were being smuggled either into or through their country under the guise of Cargo. For law-abiding vessels, like the Giannis D, the many rules and additional checks were as time-consuming and tiresome as they were necessary. Having satisfied all the various requirements and checks, the Giannis D was finally allowed to proceed through the Canal, which proved to be just another of the many safe passages completed every day.Once into Suez Bay, the Giannis D stopped long enough to allow the Pilot to disembark. For him, it would soon be another ship and a return journey to Port Said. For the Giannis D, however, there now came one of the busiest and most testing stretches of water to be found anywhere in the world.
The Giannis D was now in the upper reaches of the Gulf of Suez – a long narrow stretch of water festooned with small islands and Coral Reefs. Whatever their size, at least the islands were visible but Coral Reefs are very different and lurk menacingly just below the surface like an unseen enemy waiting to rip the hull from any careless vessel – as many a Captain has discovered to his cost.
The Master of the Giannis D knew these waters well and was not too proud to trust his more junior officers with the important task of navigation. Setting his usual course, he checked every element of the ship’s position and made sure his orders were fully understood before leaving the bridge.Eventually, they were approaching the Straits of Gobal and, as the Sinai coast began to fall away to the east and the Egyptian mainland even further away to the west, the Captain was satisfied that the more dangerous stretches of water had been safely negotiated once again and finally he could relax.Sha’b Abu Nuhas is a magnificent Coral plateau that barely reaches the surface and, from a distance, is not easily seen at all. Unfortunately, as far as shipping is concerned, it lies right at the very edge of the busy shipping lane called the Straits of Gobal – found at that extreme northwest corner where the Red Sea begins to narrow before it becomes the Gulf of Suez. For ships outbound from Suez, Sha’b Abu Nuhas has always been the very last obstacle between them and the open Red Sea and it comes just as many a Captain has taken his eye off the ball…
With Jeddah another 600 miles further south and, thinking that only the open Red Sea was between him and his destination, the Captain relaxed in his cabin and was soon fast asleep. He had, however, not reckoned with Abu Nuhas and it was not long before he was very rudely awoken by an event that would signal the end of his much loved ship. With the engines set at “Full Speed Ahead” the Giannis D was seen to suddenly wander from her allotted course and drive hard onto the north west corner of Abu Nuhas Reef. The date was April 19th 1983.