Thursday, August 28, 2008

Before Titanic ,there was the SS Poseidon “Salem Express”

Before Titanic ,there was the SS Poseidon and Before Al Salam 98 , there was Salem Express !! Yes Al Salam 98 was not the first ferry that sunk with its passengers on its board with no hope to survival , still people sometimes got short memory !!

Hussein Salem

Salem Express ferry was owned by Hussein Salem, famous tycoon, former intelligence officer and close friend to President Mubarak himself, after all Mubarak is staying in his hotel Jolie Ville at Sharm El-Sheikh most of the year. It was the first Egyptian ferry that sunk in the red sea and the first accident of its type in the history of Egypt; it touched the hearts and minds of many Egyptian. Salem express drowned in December 1991 while it was in its way home to Egypt from Saudi Arabia. On its board there were officially 690 passengers mainly from Egypt from the pilgrims “It was the pilgrimage season”. There are some people that are saying that the number of the passengers were more than that , they were about 1600 , of course there is no confirmation till now especially after all those year and the fact the Salam 98 was officially infamously crowned as the mother of all disasters.

The history of Salem Express:

It was built in the French shipyards of La Seyne in 1964; the ship was Salem express launched under the name Fred Scamaroni in 1966 and was a roll-on, roll-off ferry for vehicles and passengers. Through years the vessels name was changed several times, to the Nuits Saint George, Lord Sinai, and Al Tahara and in 1988 to the Salem Express. At 100m long, with an 18m beam and 5m draft she was a sizeable vessel.

The terrible loss:

The last voyage of the ferry was between Safga and Jeddah, the ferry was returning from Jeddah carrying Egyptians, most of them from the pilgrims. It was said that it was overloaded with passengers and vehicles. On the 15th of December 1991 at night the ferry was southeast of Safga port and just few hours from entering it where there was a sea storm in the area. The Salem Express then struck the southeast part of a reef chain known as Hyndman Reef “exact location is in the map below”. Striking the reef on the starboard side of its bow, slightly below the bow door, it not only ripped a hole in her side, but the entire bow door was forced upward. Its forward motion only served to increase the upward pressure on the door until it was fully open and forced thousands of gallons of water directly into its hull. Already it turned out that it has a lift mechanism that contributed to this disaster; this kind of technical but I think we should mention it here; Salem Express’ bow encompassed a lifting mechanism designed to turn the entire forward bow upwards, whilst ramps “Movable stairs” were then lowered allowing vehicles and passengers alike to embark through its nose, directly forward of the raised bridge section on the upper deck. This lifting mechanism was to become a major contributing factor in its catastrophic disaster

The disasters did not stop here. There was that an electric outage happened and the doors on the ferry were electric, most of the passengers were locked in, they were trapped. Yes they were just trapped like in SS Poseidon. The lifeboats were never used, there are in their places till this moment.

In less than 10 minutes, it sank fully to the seabed in 30 meters of dive_site_red_sea_safaga_wreck_salem_express water.

I must mention that according to what I read the Safga port tried to save the ferry as quick as possible still it seems that it was difficult ,there was a sea storm in the middle of the winter and .. The vessel sank in incredible speed.

According to the official story the ferry drowned because of human error, the captain’s.

The Egyptian X-File: How many passengers were on board of the Salem Express?

Till now we do not know for sure how many passengers were on the Salem Express, except that they were not by any means 690 passengers like the official records with a death toll was 480 passengers. Most people say that the passengers were more then 1000, some said they were 1400. It was the golden season.

All experts agreed that the ferry was overcrowded with passengers and their vehicles they brought from Saudi Arabia still they can not determine the number of passengers as it should, do not forget Hussein Salem is very powerful man, he is more powerful than you think.

The Egyptian Navy then along with the divers tried to get many bodies as they could , some are saying that there are still many bodies trapped in the wreck behind the closed doors and till now the Egyptian divers do not go near from the chambers of Salem Express because they consider it a mass tomb, the foreign divers who went there described as very cold and dull as far as I read , it is not fun thing like finding the Titanic after all when you see all the life boats still in there places, with cars and children toys down there you will know the size of the disaster.

I can’t believe after all those year the children presents from clothes, toys and bicycles are there , the cars brought from the KSA are still there.

I feel so angry, I mean in less than 15 years another disaster happens and thousand died for no reason do not ask me why Hussein Salem got away with it, come Ismail got away and he is the friend of Azami , Salem is the friend of the old man since 1960s , still days showed the real metal of Salem , now he is the exporter of the Egyptian Natural gas to Israel !!!

Now the location of Salem Express Wreck is among the three wreck diving sites in Safga, the other two are Al-Kahfian and M.V Hatour.The ship location is 14 KM from Safga by the way.

Here are three slide shows for the wreck of Salem express; the first is slide show whose photos were taken by the way Saleh El-Darisy from the Kuwaiti Center for Diving.

The second is from Flickr images

The third one is emotional because it includes some stuff down there that belonged to the families from toys and cloths; the photos were taken by Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor.

Here is the Map :

View Larger Map



  1. this is really interesting. thanks for sharing

  2. Dear ALL:
    The information that Hussien Salem, the owner of the Hotels etc. is the same owner of Salem express is totaly wrong and even miss-leading, the owner of the Salem express is Hagg Salem who use to work as electriatn in the EGyptian Navigation Company and he did his money from such and then he bought ships and ended with the Salem Express= As for Hussien Salem He never ever owned a ship nor even had work related in shipping he always invested in hotels or in Oil & Gas , due to a simple fact that shipping profits is not much, he is the entrpuiner type meaning he develop a company make her a good profits and then sell it, and again he never owned a SHIP nor he owned the Salem Express- please check this information and I'm so sure I'm right and you will say yes Hussien Salem never owned a ship- why I'm saying so coz I worked in both companies I use to work in the Salem Navigation company and then I left them worked in other places and then worked in Hussien Salem Hotels and the are two different persons and not even related nor relatives-

  3. Are you sure from that !!?? Because most of the sources I checked from it says otherwise !!??

  4. Hi, are there any official records of investigation reports that were made available to public?


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