The Loss of the Salem Express: Captain Hassan Moro was a vastly experienced ship’s master and had command of the Salem Express. Generally considered to be the best, he knew the local waters as well as any. On returning to Safaga, he would always take an unauthorised shortcut between the mainland and the Hyndman Reefs which saved two hours. None of his fellow ships’ captains would use this route.
On 15 December 1991, the Salem Express departed Jeddah for Egypt. During the journey, the weather deteriorated and by nightfall, the winds were gale force. Despite the conditions, Moro still took that shortcut. Close to midnight, the Salem Express struck a reef in the Hyndman group. This jolted the Visor open allowing water to race into the car deck. There was no time for an orderly evacuation and within 20 minutes the Salem Express sank - coming to rest in 32m of water on her starboard side.
The official death toll was 470. In a tragedy that happened so quickly that no lifeboats were launched, it is remarkable that 180 people survived. Captain Moro went down with his ship.
Diving the Salem Express: Whilst divers are allowed to visit this wreck, they are “not” allowed to enter the vessel at all. This ship is completely intact and lies squarely on her starboard side. The visor which covers the bows is known to move open and closed. Behind this is a short foredeck with windlasses for two large anchors which are still fully retracted. The bridge deck has many rows of square windows. Above the Bridge is a short mast and behind this a sun deck with lifeboat davits on both sides. None of the davits is swung out and all lifeboats on the upper (port) side are absent. The port side is 10-12m deep for most of the length of the ship where there is a long companionway with many doors. Amidships are twin funnels below which are found a small number of lifeboats on the seabed. Above the deck is a light framework over which sheets of corrugated plastic were fixed to provide shelter from the sun. Those sheets now litter the seabed. At the stern are two huge propellers and a single rudder.