Speaking on Skai TV, Mr Santorinios denied accusations that authorities responded slowly to the sinking of the tanker, noting that a floating barrier to contain the leakage of oil had been installed within a few hours.

Specifically, he explained that Hellenic Coast Guard vessels were in the area, but could not approach the ship before it completely sank, as sinking creates a lot of water turbulence.

The ship started taking on water at 2.30 am and sank at 4.10 am. By 9.40 am, the barrier was up, Deputy minister was quoted as saying.

In the meantime, around 300 tons of fuel had leaked from the vessel, according to experts.

At the time of the incident, the ship was carrying 2,500 tons of fuel. The causes of the incident are still unidentified.

The following video presents the ecological disaster across Athens' coast: