Egypt Red Sea Shipwrecks - The Giannis D

The Giannis D

By Ned Middleton

Note: Ned Middleton is a professional Underwater Photo-Journalist who has published a number of articles in recent years about Red Sea Wrecks. Please send corrections to Ned Middleton here.

Day Boat Safari Boat Shore Dive Snorkelling Diving Grade
Yes Yes No Yes All
Location: 27 34 42" N, 33 55 24. Northwest corner of Shaab Abu Nuhas Reef
Access: Day or Safari boat normally from Hurghada occasionally from Sharm El Sheikh
Minimum Depth to Wreck 6m (above Bridge)
Maximum Depth to Seabed: 27m (at Stern)
Average Visibility: 30-35m

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 ships 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 ships 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.

Shab 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, Shab 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.

Lloyds List of April 22nd 1983, reported:

"GIANNIS D (Greek). London Apr 21 - Information received, dated Apr 20, states: Mv Giannis D, (from Rijeka), cargo sawn softwood for discharge at Jeddah and Hodeidah, grounded at Shab Abu Nuhas, approximate position lat. 27.35N, long. 33.56E, last night. Crew abandoned vessel, which is listing, and taken by an Egyptian tug to Santa Fe platform and then by helicopter to Ras Shoke. Owners signed Lloyds standard form with salvage tug Salvanguard, which proceeding to vessel." By the time this was being read in London, however, the Giannis D had been declared a total constructive loss.

The Ship

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 vessels 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.

Diving the Giannis D

The "Giannis D" is now found in three separate sections - Bows, Amidships and Stern lying more or less parallel to the Reef. Whilst each of these will provide the Diver with a most rewarding dive, most Divers tend to head straight for the stern where they will find a very dramatic and exciting structure. Such is the power of nature to reduce a man-made object to scrap metal, that the Stern looks as though it has been cleanly cut from the remainder of the ship. Almost like an island in the sand, this part of the wreck sits proudly all by itself, listing to port at an angle of about 45 degrees. The deepest part is the port companionway which is almost resting on the seabed. Above this, a number of davits and other fittings are found hanging out from the wreck. There are Crown of Thorns Starfish here - so watch where you put your hands. At 23-24m this is the deepest part of the wreck and immediately above, parts of the superstructure reach to within 4 metres of the surface.

On the starboard side, the Diver will find a ladder still hanging down the side of the vessel. This was used by the crew as they abandoned ship. Immediately below is the propeller which is partially buried in the sand. Above and just in front of the huge rounded stern is the starboard-side companionway and stretching above this the Diver will find raised decks and the Funnel (with the "D" clearly visible). There is easy access to the engine room, which was never salvaged, and offers a very exciting interlude for those who prefer to venture deep inside.

The leading edge of this section is, of course, dominated by the Bridge. This is a large, and relatively shallow, open "room" with plenty of light and a number of entry and exit points providing excellent conditions for those wishing to enter a wreck for the very first time. Immediately in front of the bridge are a number of cargo winches below a very large "A" Frame.

Travelling eastwards - parallel to the Reef which is over to the right, the Diver will now pass over the remains of No 2 Hold before arriving at the section that once separated the two cargo holds. Part of a companionway is uppermost with mast and booms having fallen across the seabed.

Continuing in the same direction, the Diver now passes over the remains of No 1 Hold and a few well-rotted remnants of the cargo of softwood before arriving at the Bows. These are a completely separate dive and one that is often overlooked.

The Bows rest perfectly on their port side with the decks facing away from the Reef. Once again, they look as though they were separated from the remainder of the ship by an acetylene torch. Being exactly on their side, however, means that the forward main mast is found stretching out directly above and parallel to the sand - seemingly defying all the known laws of gravity. Many hard and soft corals have begun to colonise this part of the wreck and numerous Reef Fishes have crossed over from the adjacent Reef to set up home. A very large Napoleon Wrasse is often encountered here.

On the focsle, the diver will find the windlass and a number of cargo winches - all occupying their rightful place. There is also a small entrance into the tight confines of the forward anchor locker - but with so much chain still inside, there is nothing to recommend the experience.

Overall the Giannis D is an excellent dive - and one that is much enjoyed by every grade of Diver. Why she should have suddenly veered from her course will probably never be known. Thankfully, there were no casualties and, in this case, Shippings loss is definitely Divings gain.

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Last Updated: May 29th, 2011