The Wreck of the Priamos

The Gulf of Aden, notorious for pirates, is one of the major waterways on the globe. Connecting the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea via Suez Canal, there are about 21’000 ships crossing the gulf per year. Hence it’s not surprising that there are quite a few shipwrecks on the seabed. One of them is the MV Priamos lying on the seabed in Djibouti.

The Banana Boat

The cargo vessel was built in 1959 by the German Howaldtswerke in Kiel. The ship is 126 m long with 3’027 gross tonnage and has an 8-cylinder diesel engine with 5140 shaft horse power giving 17 knots maximal speed.

Up to 1969 it transported refrigerated banana from South America under the name MV Priamos for the shipping company F. Laeisz and the Afrikanische Frucht-Compagnie in Hamburg. It was then sold to Greek owners and called MV Santa Trinidad, and later became MV Phaon in 1971. In 1974, new owners renamed it MV Orchard Reefer registered in Singapore.

On November 22, 1974, sailing from Djeddah for Singapore, there was a fire in the engine room when the Orchard Reefer had passed Aden in Yemen. The entire 27-man crew safely abandoned the ship, and her Norwegian master, the Indonesian radio operator, and 25 Philippine crew were picked up by the motor tanker Dora. The vessel was towed into Djibouti, capsized, and ran aground near Moucha island.

The Wreck of the Priamos

The wreck of the Priamos – which is often called Le Faon by divers in Djibouti – is overgrown with marine life, and there are schools of fish. There is a crack in the hull behind the bridge, and it’s possible to dive from one side to the other – actually from the deck to the keel, as the ship is lying on its port side. Visibility in the waters of the Gulf of Tadjoura is low due to the high content of plankton, and the murky water makes the wreck even more atmospheric for divers.

The name Priamos goes back to the king of Troy. Priamos was the father of Hector and Paris who abducted Helena – resulting in the Trojan War narrated in Homer’s Illiad.

References: Norman Hooke. Maritime Casualties 1963-1996, 1997. Roger W. Jordan. Sea Breezes: The Ship Lovers’ Digest, 1975.

An Arabian angelfish (Pomacanthus asfur) swims at the wreck of the cargoship Orchard Reefer sunken 1974 after a machine room explosion near Moucha island, Djibouti. The wreck is also called Le Faon.
An Arabian angelfish (Pomacanthus asfur) swims at the wreck of the cargoship Orchard Reefer sunken 1974 after a machine room explosion near Moucha island, Djibouti. The wreck is also called Le Faon.
MV Priamos on a postcard sent 1963 from Ecuador.
The MV Priamos is pictured on a postcard sent 1963 from Ecuador. The text on the postcard reads: “This ship is one of the best we have been on”.
A schooling bannerfish (Heniochus diphreutes) swims near Moucha island, Djibouti. Visibility in the waters of the Gulf of Tadjoura is low due to the high content of plankton, which makes the Gulf of Tadjoura famous for whale sharks sightings.
A schooling bannerfish (Heniochus diphreutes) swims near Moucha island, Djibouti. Visibility in the waters of the Gulf of Tadjoura is low due to the high content of plankton, which makes the Gulf of Tadjoura famous for whale sharks sightings.
Three-striped damselfish (Dascyllus aruanus) hide in a coral in the Gulf of Tadjourah in Djibuti.
Three-striped damselfish (Dascyllus aruanus) hide in a coral in the Gulf of Tadjoura in Djibuti.
Coral reef with large Acropora corals in the Gulf of Tadjoura, Djibouti.
Coral reef with large Acropora corals in the Gulf of Tadjoura, Djibouti.