MV Salem Express

The Salem Express was a passenger ship that sank in the Red Sea. It is controversial due to the loss of life which occurred when she sank shortly after midnight on December 17, 1991.[2]

The wreck of MV Salem Express in 2010, 19 years after she sank.
Name: MV Fred Scamaroni
Launched: 1966
In service: 1966
Out of service: 1969
Name: MV Nuits Saint Georges
In service: 1969
Out of service: 1982
Name: MV Lord Sinai
In service: 1982
Out of service: 1988
Name: MV Salem Express
In service: 1988
Out of service: 1991
Fate: ran aground, 15 Dec 1991[1]
Status: Wrecked
General characteristics
Type: roll-on/roll-off ferry
Tonnage: 4771 grt
Length: 110 metres (360 ft)
Beam: 18 metres (59 ft)
Draught: 4.9 metres (16 ft)
Installed power: 4 x 8 cylinder diesel engines, dual shaft, 14880 bhp
Propulsion: 2 screws
Speed: 21 knots (39 km/h)

The Salem Express was a Roll-on/roll-off car and passenger ferry that operated between the ports of Safaga (in Egypt) and Jeddah (Saudi Arabia). The ship was constructed in 1964 in the La Seyne-sur-Mer shipyards in France and launched under the name Fred Scamaroni in 1966. After going through several owners and names, the ship was acquired by Hussein Salem, an Egyptian businessman and a confidant of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.[3]

On one such return journey from Jeddah, carrying hundreds of Egyptian pilgrims, she sank after colliding with the Hyndman Reefs on the Egyptian coast in the early hours of 17 December 1991. The impact holed the bows and forced open the bow visor. The ship very quickly took on water and sank, on her starboard side within minutes. Loss of life was considerable, with the official figure being quoted as 470. Rumour suggests that there were many more on board, however this is debatable as official records list the number of passengers and crew as 690.

Many bodies were recovered after the sinking, but eventually a halt was called due to the danger involved and the wreck was sealed with plates welded across openings.

Dives, as of April 2013, revealed that the wreck is in good condition and coral covers much of the ship. Scuba divers can peer into windows and easily enter the ship from many points. Reports of plates being welded over access points could not be verified. Additionally, while the bow of the ship is crumpled and bent, there are no signs of cracking, at least on the port side. The bow visor is clearly open by about 12-16 inches at the base, closest to the waterline. The sea floor, 29 meters deep, is littered with debris. Notably, two ridged life boats rest between the smoke stacks and the stern. At the stern of the ship, divers can enter the large car door. The wreck still contains cars and luggage.


  1. Wrecksite - Salem Express 1966-1991
  2. Rik Vercoe. "Scuba Diving in Safaga, the Red Sea". Archived from the original on March 3, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-29.
  3. "Before Titanic ,there was the SS Poseidon "Salem Express"". Egyptian Chronicles. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
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