Image: Clean-up crews
Thanassis Stavrakis  /  AP file
Clean-up crews use shovels to remove oil from a pebble beach on Santorini, Greece, in this file photo.
updated 6/18/2007 3:14:48 PM ET 2007-06-18T19:14:48

The owners, operator and captain of a cruise ship that hit the rocks off the island Santorini and sank were fined a total of $1.57 million Monday for polluting the Aegean Sea.

The Sea Diamond leaked an estimated 300 tons of fuel into the sea since sinking off the island two months ago.

Nearly 1,600 people, most of them Americans, including two dozen students from North Carolina, were evacuated from the Cypriot-owned ship on April 5, but two French tourists are missing and presumed drowned. The Sea Diamond sank the next day, with some 450 tons of fuel and lubricants in its tanks.

The ship’s owners, Louis Group, operators Louis Cruise Lines and Greek captain Yiannis Marinos were fined for polluting the sea and the coast near the shipwreck and failing to submit a final action plan to pump the remaining fuel from the hulk, the Merchant Marine Ministry said.

A ministry announcement also accused the companies and captain of not monitoring the effect of the pollution on marine life in an environmentally sensitive area.

The ministry added that Santorini port authorities already have imposed additional daily fines of $12,000 on the shipowners for pollution — adding up to some $750,000 in the past two months.

Marinos, 35, and five other crew members are still facing criminal charges of negligence. Greek authorities and Louis Cruise Lines blamed the shipwreck on human error.

A Louis Group spokesman said the company would not comment on the fine for now.

But Michalis Maratheftis defended the company’s clean-up efforts, handled by a private Greek contractor.

“Our people are doing an exceptional job,” he said. “The area is perfectly clean.”

Vassilis Mamaloukas, an environmental engineer leading the clean-up for contractor Environmental Protection Engineering SA, said the operation is going “very smoothly.”

“The operation on the beaches is close to completion,” he told The Associated Press.

“My personal assessment is that most of the fuel has already seeped out of the tanks, judging by the quantities we have picked up on the surface. We have collected some 250-300 tons, and a quantity has also been gathered on the coast.”

Mamaloukas said the marine clean-up “will take months,” using a floating boom deployed round the shipwreck.

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