Many people believe that the ship was smuggling contraband cigarettes and ran aground after being pursued by the Greek navy. The truth is somewhat different. The ship was sailing from Kefalonia to Albania when it suffered a mechanical failure on the return journey. With no control and bad weather preventing any rescue the ship ran aground at Navagio on October 2, 1980.
This is taken from the captain's personal account of the story surrounding the Zante shipwreck:
MV "Panayiotis" (No 4512 of Piraeus) sailed from the port of Argostoli, Cephalonia to the port of Durres, Albania on September 6, 1980. When the shipment was ready and set sail for return, during the night hours of October 2, 1980, the ship ended at the beach of St George near Volimes area due to bad weather conditions and mechanical failure. I reported the accident to the authorities, but due to the fact that the beach was not accessible on foot by land, we were not able to protect the ship from thieves and other dangers. As a result, part of the shipment was stolen along with various vessel equipment (radar, VHF radio, etc). I went back to the authorities to report that my property was stolen and the General Prosecutor of the area in my presence organized a formal on-site investigation with the local police. The outcome was outstanding as during the first days of the operation, all stolen items, as well as the stolen part of the shipment, was found in the near local villages, and 29 persons in total were persecuted and jailed during the following months after the trials were completed.
Some time later, the ship was found in a really bad condition as part of it was blown up by an unknown person or cause. I was immediately informed to remove the vessel with my own means and cost or else I would face severe punishment as the ship in this condition was polluting the natural environment. Meanwhile, I was cleared by the courts on all accusations concerning the accident and my only problem was how to remove the ship from the beach in order to avoid further prosecution and more troubles in general.
You can read the full story on the captain's own website: