Captain that ran Greek boat aground detained

Image: passenger of Giorgis ship
A passenger of the Giorgis ship is escorted by a Greek official in the port of Poros island, southwest of Athens. Greek authorities evacuated the tourist boat with more than 300 people aboard after it ran aground in choppy seas.Thanassis Stavrakis / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Authorities have detained the captain of a tourist boat that ran aground off the Greek island of Poros with more than 300 people on board, the head of the port authority on the island said Friday.

A rescue operation using boats, helicopters and a military plane successfully evacuated all 278 passengers Thursday night, most of them tourists from Japan, Russia and the U.S. No injuries were reported, and the passengers arrived in Greece's main port of Piraeus late Thursday.

The boat, called the Giorgis and built in 1959, was also carrying 35 crew members. It was one of several tourist boats that runs popular one-day cruises between the islands of Aegina, Poros and Hydra, all of which are within easy reach of Athens.

It is unclear why the boat ran aground on a marked reef near a visible islet just north of Poros. Although seas at the time were choppy, the weather was not stormy. The incident is under investigation, said the Merchant Marine Ministry, which coordinates rescue efforts at sea.

The captain, whose identity was not released, remained on the Giorgis to aid the salvage effort and later testified to accident investigators and the island's port authority. He has not yet been charged.

The tourist ship Giorgis is seen near the coast of Poros island, southwest of Athens on Thursday, March 13, 2008. Greek authorities evacuated the tourist boat with more than 300 people aboard after it ran aground in choppy seas . No injuries were reported. The 278 passengers, mainly Japanese, American and Russian tourists, were evacuated by boat and were being taken to Poros, according to the Merchant Marine Ministry, which coordinates rescue operations at sea. Thanassis Stavrakis / AP

"The captain of the ship is considered detained," said Evangelos Pollalis, the head of the Poros port authority.

Last year, a cruise ship with more than 1,500 people on board sank after hitting rocks near the Aegean island of Santorini. Two French tourists died.

But government and industry officials argued this latest incident was unlikely to impact the country's tourism.

"Accidents are always going to happen," Yiannis Evangelou, head of the Association of Greek Travel and Tourist Agencies, told The Associated Press.

"The important thing is that the rescue was well-organized and the incident was not related to any kind of gap in safety measures. The captain made a mistake, so I really don't think it will create a negative impression."

The Giorgis, operated by the Greek-based Hydraiki Naval Company, was built by the J.J. Sietas KG shipyard in Germany. It was refurbished in 2005.

The Giorgis was replaced Friday by Hydraiki's Anna Marou built in 1991. Its decks were seen lined with tourists during Friday's cruise.

Divers were inspecting the hull of the boat and crews were trying to repair a rupture that was still letting water on board, Pollalis said.

An anti-pollution crew was on standby, but the ministry said that the danger of any fuel or oil leaks was very low as the tear in the hull was in the front part of the boat.

Once the hull has been repaired, the Giorgis will be towed to a shipyard near Greece's main port of Piraeus, he said.