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A British ferry leaving Zeebrugge, Belgium, capsizes, drowning 188 people, on March 6, 1987. Shockingly poor safety procedures led directly to this deadly disaster. Lord Justice Barry Sheen, an investigator of the accident, later said of it, from top to bottom, the body corporate was affected with the disease of sloppiness.
The Herald of Free Enterprise ferry was an 8,000-ton ship owned by Townsend Car Ferries, Ltd. It usually carried passengers and vehicles from Dover, England, to Calais, France, and back. However, in March 1987, the ferry was transferred into service on the company’s Zeebrugge, Belgium, to Dover route. It made one of its first trips on the new route on a Friday morning with 543 people, 84 cars and 36 trucks on board as it headed across the English Channel to Dover.
The Herald was designed to allow vehicles to drive on and off the ship quickly and easily. Still, in order to save even more time, it was the unofficial policy of the ship’s crew to leave port with the bow doors open and to close them as the ship was already moving, a practice that allowed a small, but normally inconsequential, amount of water into the ferry. The March 6 trip left port with the doors open and the person assigned to close them asleep in a bunk. (It was later revealed that this, too, was not unusual.) The crew members who were supposed to take over this assignment were unable to close the doors as the Herald pushed out to sea.
As crew members frantically pounded the doors with hammers, water flooded into the cargo hold. The vehicles in the hold were tossed back and forth in the water, and a sudden shift in weight caused the ship to tip to the port side. Within minutes, the Herald capsized. Many passengers were thrown into the sea and quickly drowned in the cold 30-foot-deep water. Life preservers kept some afloat until rescuers were able to reach them.
Still other passengers remained trapped inside the Herald, some for more than a day, until rescuers could reach them. Ultimately, more than 400 people survived the disaster, including the ship’s captain and first officer, though both were suspended for their lax safety procedures. The disaster also resulted in the establishment of new and more extensive safety regulations for ferries crossing the English Channel.
'I was swimming among dead bodies' – Express writer was ONBOARD Zeebrugge ferry disasterLink copied
Archive footage shows 1987 Zeebrugge ferry disaster
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But every now and then, when my mind does return to that cold, still night of March 6 1987, the images - the sights, the sounds, the sheer paralysing terror - are crystal clear in mind. It could have been yesterday.
I was on that ill-fated crossing on the Herald of Free Enterprise with seven school friends from Hinckley in Leicestershire.
We&rsquod made a similar journey a year earlier - a booze cruise to Boulogne was a good laugh for a bunch of lads who had formed strong bonds as sixth formers and were mulling their futures.
This time we saved vouchers from a newspaper promotion and got our tickets for a quid.
We chose Zeebrugge as our destination for no reason other than after France we thought a day out in Belgium would make a change.
We arrived in high spirits after an uneventful crossing from Dover but Zeebrugge itself was no great shakes so we jumped on a tram to the more touristy town of Ostend where we spent a fun day just hanging out in bars and cafes. Eight young blokes having a fun day out together.
Simon Osborne was onboard the Zeebrugge ferry on that fateful day
Chilling photographs depict the Zeebrugge ferry disaster
Hundreds dead as Baltic ferry sinks
STOCKHOLM, Sept. 28 -- More than 800 people are missing and feared dead Wednesday after a ferry traveling from Estonia to Sweden capsized and sank in stormy weather off the coast of Finland in the worst European maritime disaster since World War II. The ferry MS Estonia, owned by the Swedish-Estonian joint stock company Estline-Estonia, broadcast a message reporting a serious list at 1:24 a.m. local time and then sank within minutes about 40 km (25 miles) off the southwest coast of Finland. Estonian border guards and Finnish officials said 964 people -- 776 passengers and 188 crew -- were aboard the vessel, but some Estonian officials indicated the figure might not be precise because the Estline company did not generally provide accurate passenger lists to Estonian authorities. Finnish Coastal Command chief Raimo Tiilikainen, who was directing the rescue operation, said 126 survivors had been rescued from the ferry. He said 42 bodies had been recovered and the remaining 796 were missing and feared dead. Estonian radio said the survivors included the ferry's captain and five members of the crew. Swedish authorities said the captian was an Estonian national and was very experienced. The authorities said two ferries that participated in the rescue would arrive in Stockholm late Wednesday, one carrying 26 survivors and one carrying six survivors. Police said among those aboard the Estonia when it sank were 66 civilians connected with the Stockholm police department. Authorities did not say whether any of the civilian police employees were among the survivors.
A Swedish ship inspector who visited the vessel Tuesday told Swedish radio the rubber seals on the boat's cargo doors did not look good, and a seaman who survived the accident reported seeing water rush into the vessel's cargo bay before it capsized. Finnish authorities launched a massive search operation with vessels and helicopters from several countries. The effort, which was expected to continue through the night, was hampered by high seas and turbulent weather, but the conditions began to ease Wednesday night. Lennart Johanssen, a spokesman for the Swedish sea rescue center, said many of the survivors 'were in very bad shape when rescued' and that 'hope of finding more survivors is fading out.' Esa Saari, an official at the rescue coordination center in Turku, Finland, said conditions made it unlikely that significant additional numbers of survivors would be found. 'We hope and are trying to find (more survivors), but I don't know,' Saari said. 'In the sea water it's impossible to be (still) alive because the temperature is now about 8 degrees (Celsius) (46 F).' Officials in Estonia and Sweden were describing the sinking of the Estonia-to-Sweden ferry as the worst accident ever in the Baltic Sea. 'It was awful, the largest accident on the Baltic Sea of all time,' said Estonian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Rutt Pattir. 'This is the greatest catastrophe for Sweden in modern times,' Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt told a news conference. The disaster prompted emergency goverment meetings in both Sweden and Estonia, with Estonian President Lennart Meri declaring a day of mourning and expressing condolences on national television, and Bildt summoning a meeting of Cabinet and ordering flags flown at half-staff. More than 400 relatives of the passengers gathered at the ferry terminal in Stockholm to await word on the fate of their kin. A crisis group of 100 doctors, psychologists and ministers were assembled at the terminal to help the relatives cope with the tragedy. 'The atmosphere is subdued,' said the Rev. Magnus Magnusson. 'Some have already given up. Some are crying, but most are relatively composed.' Some of the relatives were in tears and hugging each other as they left the Estline terminal Wednesday night. Information was coming out slowly and the relatives were being notified only as authorities confirmed the name of each survivor. The Estonia, which was carrying mostly Swedish and Estonian passengers and crew, sank about 40 km (25 miles) off the southwest coast of Finland shortly after reporting a serious list at 1:24 a.m. local time. Estonian radio quoted representatives of the Estline company that operated the vessel as saying the ferry sank after its engines shut down and it was swept by 20-22 meter (60-66 foot) waves. A company spokesman said the cargo in the holds apparently shifted when the list reached 30 degrees, causing the vessel to overturn, the radio said. Helicopter pilots and crew on ships involved in the multinational rescue operation reported spotting empty lifeboats and lifejackets in the area of the disaster as daylight broke. 'We can see debris from the boat, empty rafts and rescue crews. That is it,' Per-Erik Cederkvist, an officer on the ferry Mariella, told Swedish radio. 'It looks like Estonia just tipped over and sank.' Two Swedish safety inspectors visited the Estonia Tuesday while training Estonian inspectors. Ake Sjoblom, one of the two inspectors, told Swedish radio they had noticied the rubber seals on the vessel's cargo doors 'did not look good' during the visit. Although Estonian crew members were notified of the deficiencies, Sjoblom said the visit was not a proper inspection and the condition of the seals 'wasn't bad enough to hold the boat back.' The Estonia was owned by the Estonian-Swedish joint stock company Estline-Estonia, which was registered in Tallinn five years ago and was founded by the Transport Ministry of the then-Soviet Estonia and the Swedish shipping company Nordstrom and Thulin. Andres Berg, an official of Nordstrom and Thulin, said the cause of the accident was not known and the disaster would be investigated by Finnish maritime authorities because it occurred in Finnish waters. Berg told Sky television the ferry's cargo decks 'were basically completely full with lorries, trucks and ordinary passenger cars.' He said at some point the engine on the ferry had been 'blacked-out, which means it stopped,' but a loss of power by itself was not sufficient reason for the ferry to overturn. Although weather was poor in the area, Berg expressed skepticism that rough seas alone could have caused the disaster. He said the Estonia had been plying Baltic waters for 14 years and 'has certainly experienced even much worse weather than this without any problems. The ferry sank when it was about six hours into the voyage from Tallinn to Stockholm, a popular route on which 168,000 people traveled in the first six months of operation. There have been several ferry disasters in the Baltic in recent years. A 1990 fire on the Scandinavian Star killed 158 people and in January 1993 the Polish ferry Jan Heveliusz capsized and sank off the Polish coast with 54 people drowned. Incumbent Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson, who takes office Oct. 7, described the disaster as one of the worst in Sweden's recent history, and he called for an international review of ferry safety regulations. 'Many people will be given a very sad message today,' he said. 'In a short space of time, three major accidents have occurred in the Baltics. This is not acceptable. People must be able to travel in safety. I will now call on a special commission to go through safety regulations, probably an international one.'
Helicopter pilots and crew on ships involved in the multinational rescue operation reported spotting empty lifeboats and lifejackets in the area of the disaster as daylight broke. 'We can see debris from the boat, empty rafts and rescue crews. That is it,' Per-Erik Cederkvist, an officer on the ferry Mariella, told Swedish radio. 'It looks like Estonia just tipped over and sank.' Two Swedish safety inspectors visited the Estonia Tuesday while training Estonian inspectors. Ake Sjoblom, one of the two inspectors, told Swedish radio they had noticied the rubber seals on the vessel's cargo doors 'did not look good' during the visit. Although Estonian crew members were notified of the deficiencies, Sjoblom said the visit was not a proper inspection and the condition of the seals 'wasn't bad enough to hold the boat back.' The Estonia was owned by the Estonian-Swedish joint stock company Estline-Estonia, which was registered in Tallinn five years ago and was founded by the Transport Ministry of the then-Soviet Estonia and the Swedish shipping company Nordstrom and Thulin. Andres Berg, an official of Nordstrom and Thulin, said the cause of the accident was not known and the disaster would be investigated by Finnish maritime authorities because it occurred in Finnish waters. Berg told Sky television the ferry's cargo decks 'were basically completely full with lorries, trucks and ordinary passenger cars.' He said at some point the engine on the ferry had been 'blacked-out, which means it stopped,' but a loss of power by itself was not sufficient reason for the ferry to overturn. Although weather was poor in the area, Berg expressed skepticism that rough seas alone could have caused the disaster. He said the Estonia had been plying Baltic waters for 14 years and 'has certainly experienced even much worse weather than this without any problems. The ferry sank when it was about six hours into the voyage from Tallinn to Stockholm, a popular route on which 168,000 people traveled in the first six months of operation. There have been several ferry disasters in the Baltic in recent years. A 1990 fire on the Scandinavian Star killed 158 people and in January 1993 the Polish ferry Jan Heveliusz capsized and sank off the Polish coast with 54 people drowned. Incumbent Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson, who takes office Oct. 7, described the disaster as one of the worst in Sweden's recent history, and he called for an international review of ferry safety regulations. 'Many people will be given a very sad message today,' he said. 'In a short space of time, three major accidents have occurred in the Baltics. This is not acceptable. People must be able to travel in safety. I will now call on a special commission to go through safety regulations, probably an international one.' cda-emki
Many maritime disasters happen outside the realms of war. All ships, including those of the military, are vulnerable to problems from weather conditions, faulty design or human error. Some of the disasters below occurred in periods of conflict, although their losses were unrelated to any military action. The table listings are in descending order with respect to the number of casualties suffered.
Disasters with high losses of life can occur in times of armed conflict. Shown below are some of the known events with major losses.
Pre-World War I Edit
|1905||Russia||Battle of Tsushima – the decisive naval battle of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905, in which two-thirds of the Russian fleet was destroyed. 4,380 Russians were killed and 5,917 captured, including two admirals 1,862 were interned. The battleships Knyaz Suvorov, Imperator Aleksandr III, Borodino and Oslyabya were sunk.||4,380|
|1904||Japan||SS Hitachi Maru (1898) – A Japanese transportship in the Russo-Japanese War that was shelled and sunk by the Imperial Russian Navy armored cruiser Gromoboi in the southern Korean Strait between the Japanese mainland and Tsushima in the "Hitachi Maru Incident".||1,086|
|1904||Russia||Petropavlovsk – in the Russo-Japanese War, the Russian battleship was sunk on 31 March 1904 after striking two mines near the Port Arthur naval base. A total of 18 officers, including an Imperial vice admiral and 620 men were lost.||620|
|1904||Japan||Hatsuse – A Japanese battleship in the Russo-Japanese War that hit two mines on 15 May 1904 and sunk with the loss of 496 crew in a Russian minefield off Port Arthur.||496|
|1904||Japan||Takasago – a 2nd class protected cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy that struck a mine and sank off Port Arthur on 13 December 1904 in the Russo-Japanese War, with the loss of 273 officers and crew.||273|
|1904||Japan||Yashima – A Japanese battleship in the Russo-Japanese War that hit a mine on 15 May 1904 and sunk under tow with nearly 200 of her crew.||200|
World War I Edit
Spanish Civil War Edit
|1939||Spain||Castillo de Olite – On 7 March 1939, near Cartagena Harbor while approaching the docks, she was hit by three 381mm rounds from a coastal battery and sank shortly afterwards broken in two. Of the 2,112 men on board, 1,476 died, 342 were wounded and 294 were taken prisoner after being rescued by local fishermen and the lighthouse keeper.||1,476||Naval|
|1938||Spain||Baleares – sunk by the Lepanto on 6 March 1938. 765 seamen died.||765||Naval|
|1936||Spain||Almirante Ferrándiz – sunk by Canarias on 29 September 1936 130 killed.||130||Naval|
|1936||Spain||Submarine C-5 – disappeared on 31 December 1936 near of Bilbao 40 disappeared.||40||Naval|
|1936||Spain||Submarine C-3 – sunk by German submarine U-34 (1936) on 12 December 1936 38 killed.||38||Naval|
|1936||Spain||Submarine B-5 – disappeared on 15 April 1936 near of Malaga 34 disappeared.||34||Naval|
|1937||Germany||Deutschland, misidentified as the Canarias – hit by bombs from Republican aircraft in the Deutschland incident 31 killed. Not sunk.||31||Naval|
World War II Edit
There are at least eight maritime disasters during WWII, each of which has a greater death toll than any other maritime disaster.
Zeebrugge ferry disaster, 30 years on: Deadly failings behind one of UK's worst peacetime maritime tragedies
Thirty years ago this Monday, shortly after setting out to Dover from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge, the ferry Herald of Free Enterprise capsized with the loss of 193 lives – Britain’s worst peacetime maritime disaster since 1919. Godfrey Holmes examines the catastrophic failings both on the day an in the aftermath, and finds numerous lessons still to be learnt
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Imagine free enterprise unchecked, self-reverential. Imagine a “spirit of free enterprise” that places capital above both labour and product. Then imagine a “pride of free enterprise” certain of its own merits too careless to consult history regarding past shipping disasters too mean to spare a fiver in order to avert catastrophe. And there – on a cold and miserable night exactly 30 years ago this weekend – we have the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise.
Three times this ferry’s owners – owners stubbornly upholding the fiction they weren’t really the owners – were warned about open doors on a first occasion saying nobody had ever worried about them before on a second occasion saying they weren’t in the business of telling crew how to do their jobs as specified on a third occasion saying they were busy, go away.
Thus it was that, early on the evening of Friday 6 March 1987, only 23 minutes into a voyage that should have been routine, and steadily gaining speed to 18 knots an hour, 193 lives were needlessly sacrificed to the frigid waters – 3C – of the English Channel. And the keeling over of Townsend Thoresen’s state-of-the-art (1980) “roll-on, roll-off” car, lorry, and foot-passenger ferry the Herald of Free Enterprise took just two minutes. And how terrifying those two minutes.
Already 20 minutes late raising anchor, the Herald was carrying 459 passengers or drivers, 80 tired crew members still to complete their second sailing in a 24-hour window, 81 cars, 47 lorries, three buses. Some lorry drivers down below were taking a shower, eating their sandwiches, resting while several dozen day-trippers – those who’d joyfully taken advantage of a Sun newspaper offer of Belgium for £1 return – congregated in the lounge for drinks and a chat. Other passengers and crew were getting their bearings along some very long corridors leading wherever. A few “lucky” souls were out outdoors for a breather, still glancing back towards Zeebrugge. A haven of safety. If only.
Yet even as 535 innocents tried to come to terms with their own likely demise, four other people on board had that opportunity to reflect how they might have acted differently: Assistant Boatswain Mark Stanley, the man whose duty it was actually to shut the Herald’s two bow doors Boatswain Terence Ayling, whose job he considered it not to shut those crucial, life-saving, doors First Chief Officer Leslie Sabel, one of whose tasks it was to check that those doors had actually been shut and the Captain David Lewry who could neither see the doors nor communicate with anybody who might know anything about those doors or the (also still open too) stern door.
And who was the fifth man, seated in some plush office in Dover, about to knock off for the weekend? He who issued the orders that his ferries were to steam out of port with their doors still open to save on turn-around time? He who would not concede the £5, at most, that would have fixed a simple bell-push on deck G tinkling through to the bridge that the doors had actually been shut prior to departure?
Roll-on, roll-off ferries, or “ro-ros”, are inherently unstable. Most of the ship is above the waterline, not below. Ro-ros are very flat-bottomed: considered in many quarters not to be “real ships” at all – as if still guided by invisible chain. That is why the Herald’s ingress of water was cataclysmic. You only need to carry an ordinary, water-laden 12-inch dinner plate across your bedroom to understand just how volatile – and wet – the outcome. British Rail’s pioneering ferry, MV Princess Victoria, attempting to traverse the wild Irish Sea from Larne to Stranraer on a fateful night during the even more fateful east coast floods of 31 January and 1 February 1953, went down almost immediately as towering waves beat their way on to its car deck. 133 passengers and crew perished that night, with only 44 survivors: none of those eventually rescued was a ship’s officer. Compare.
Stephen Homewood (more of him later) in his seminal book – still only one of two – concerning the night of 6 March 1987, and its aftermath, Zeebrugge: A Hero’s Story, describes what exactly happened to the Herald: “[We] had gone out of harbour with a gaping hole in the bow caused by open doors. She was also loaded and tilted [three-foot extra] at the front [due to extra ballast fed into the hull in order to accommodate the Port of Zeebrugge’s incompatible gangways]. As her speed increased . the bow door ramp was pushed into the water, scooping up every bow wave, so allowing hundreds and thousands of gallons of sea water to pour in . This water settled on the port side, causing that first roll. [Briefly] the ship then steadied but as more water rushed in, the extra weight sent the ship into its final death roll. Floating on its side for a minute, it [soon and providentially] settled on the sandbank that [mercifully] saved the ship from turning completely turtle.”
Too harrowing it is to recount tales of the (fortunate?) Herald survivors. Suffice to say conditions on board, literally overboard too, were hell. Screams of panic. Smashed windows. The sight of fellow passengers – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunties, nephews, nieces among them – drowning. Fruitless re-entering into totally unlit areas that only a quarter of an hour before were not only lit, but also warm, relaxing, convivial, safe. Forlorn cries for help. Bouncing, clattering, china, glass, chairs, signage. Inaccessible lockers full of life-belts. Some life-belts so buoyant as to restrict escape. Jagged metal. Forced-down, therefore unusable, exits. Disorientation. Chaos. Confusion. Concussion. Courage. Exposure. Panic. Water, water, everywhere.
Also too unfair it would be to identify all bravery displayed that night: modest people who – with only a few moments on a freezing March evening to collect their thoughts – acted before far more passengers in distress perished: no longer seen, no longer heard. Suffice it to acknowledge the miraculous, incredibly selfless, and only incidentally recognised and honoured, contributions of Assistant Purser Stephen Homewood “human bridge” Andrew Parker unrecovered Master Chef Michael Skippen Quartermaster Tom Wilson and crew members Billy Walker and Leigh Cornelius.
Ironically, three of the men attempting to help their charges most were aforementioned Mark Victor Stanley: he who, startled and alarmed, realised his eyes were closed when he should have been operating that critical hydraulic bow-door closing mechanism Boatswain Terence Ayling, he who, in common with his superior, and carefree, Chief Officer Leslie Sabel, simply assumed, even then too late, that everything had been done that needed to be done. These three, and their correctly censured Captain Lewry, rarely ever spoke to the press – or to fellow survivors – following the Herald’s sinking. But it is beyond dispute that Mark Stanley, a talented footballer and football manager, who never shed the intolerable burden of his guilt – a very specific, solitary, guilt – died in July 2016, prematurely, aged just 58, a broken man.
So many dates need recalling all these years later: first, midnight 6 March 1987: helicopters, ships too, bringing in an initial, necessarily unrepeated, haul of bodies dead or alive the rest of March 1987: hospitalisation, convalescence, for some survivors March through to June 1987: funerals 14 March 1987: a memorial service in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Dover 15 April 1987: a national memorial service in Canterbury Cathedral, led by Archbishop Robert Runcie and televised by the BBC throughout April 1987: lifting the Herald of Free Enterprise – so facilitating the grim task of recovering the last 77 of a total 193 dead bodies 26 April 1987: Mr Justice Barry Sheen, Admiralty Judge of the High Court, opening his 29-day public inquiry October 1987: convening of official coroner’s inquest (jury verdict: unlawful killings) December1987: Order of St John awards, Clerkenwell, London also P&O’s dedication of a small Kentish wood dedicated to victims of the Herald March 1988: HM Elizabeth II herself awarding three Queen’s Gallantry Medals, and two George Medals – one, deservedly, to amazingly brave passenger Andrew Parker the other, posthumously to Michael Skippen –, as part of her New Year Honours 6 March 1988: dedication of a specially commissioned stained-glass window in Dover’s parish church September 1990: abortive criminal trials of seven accused, charged with gross negligence P&O: charged with corporate manslaughter September 1994: the almost carbon-copy sinking of the Estonia, more than 850 lives lost 6 March 2012: special service and ceremonies for the 25th anniversary of the Herald’s sinking.
After a commemorative service to be held in the Parish Church of St Mary’s Dover this coming Monday – the exact 30th. anniversary of the sinking – the bell of the Herald of Free Enterprise, hitherto owned by a Belgian national, will be presented to the Port of Dover during a short ceremony in the Parish Hall. Many crew, survivors, and bereaved families will attend.
The country at large – and certainly P&O – but definitely not each survivor, definitely not each shattered, bereaved, relative of those who drowned, has tended to forget the Herald of Free Enterprise. So what do these last 30 years tell us?
Lesson one: For want of a nail
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
Townsend Thoresen did not even fit the most rudimentary – efficient nonetheless – captain’s alert.
Lesson two: A titular, or holding, company is necessarily responsible for its “brands” – and all its brands’ shortcomings – from the very first day of takeover. In the weeks following the March 1987 disaster, P&O (Herald owners since December 1986) rode two horses: anxious to use Townsend Thoresen badging and documentation when P&O itself might have come into the spotlight yet keen to use P&O labelling when Townsend Thoresen became too toxic a public sales pitch. Sheen was actually quite forthright in two of his conclusions: the company was “infected with a disease of sloppiness from top to bottom” and its board of directors “did not have any proper comprehension of what their duties were”.
None of this prevented then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher bestowing upon her reported friend and exemplar, P&O chairman Sir Jeffrey Sterling (knighted a year before the disaster for “public service and services to industry”) the Baronetcy of Plaistow, and a seat in the House of Lords. A reward for failure ?
Lesson three: It was, and is, in British law, almost impossible to make a charge of corporate manslaughter stick. Long since the Herald prompted Crown prosecutors to attempt to bring the more serious charge – and right up to and including the Glasgow helicopter and bin lorry tragedies of 2013 and 2014 respectively, also the fatal crashing down of Guildford G Live centre’s loading door in 2013 – Crown Court proceedings have consistently failed through “lack of evidence of culpability”, an inability to discover a “guiding mind”. Lastly, many a sympathetic jury acquits plausible defendants – however compelling the case made against them may appear to be.
Lesson four: Public inquiries into disasters such as the Herald must never be rushed. Key Zeebrugge witness Stephen Homewood was heard for fewer than 40 minutes in front of Sheen, then given even less of a platform at the perfunctory inquest. In these days of social media it is easier for survivors and victims’ families to share information and organise, putting them in a potentially stronger position, but this was then not the case. Sheen was too hasty, in common with the far too speedily convened and concluded Popplewell Inquiry into the 1985 Bradford City stadium fire and the original Taylor “Inquiry” into Hillsborough. Only the Fennell Report on the 1987 King’s Cross Underground fire and a decades-later, new, Hillsborough Inquiry attempted a semblance of thoroughness.
Lesson five: We never learn. Years before the Herald sank, one of her class completed her entire Channel crossing with her bow doors open, undiscovered. And two months after the Herald’s capsize, the Daily Mirror reported that P&O was still setting off from port without due safeguards. Ferry crew often remain poorly trained, so much so that even safety exercises designed for them have been botched leading to crew deaths and grave injury. And one dare not speculate on the safety standards of Indonesian, Philippine or Vietnamese ferries.
Lesson six: Good lighting is essential. Boats and aeroplanes alike must have solid, waterproof, fireproof, lighting and walkie-talkies. The 7/7 London Tube and bus atrocities in 2006 showed yet again that emergency lighting, not to mention messaging, was completely insufficient.
Lesson seven: Post-disaster gestures are at once empty and insulting if managements maintain their unchallenged Gentlemen v Players perspective. P&O’s incidental – but deeply hurtful – acts of thoughtlessness after the Herald’s sinking are too numerous to list. but here are a few: Sterling and Townsend Thoresen refusing to speak to certain crew survivors P&O not paying for travel or subsistence – or even coffee – for those attending the inquiry, inquest and memorials P&O unprepared to offer crew any compassionate leave at all that was not deducted from their annual leave entitlement P&O holding private functions and memorials where affected crew were neither invited nor welcome P&O giving the church a template of a different ship to represent in stained glass P&O drawing up the wreck of the Herald right next to a complimentary cruise for a few surviving employees and their families (the Herald on its way to being scrapped in Taiwan) P&O sacking most Herald crew in a bitter, but unrelated, conflict with the Seamen’s union crew and the relatives of crew, dead or alive, marginalised as an inconvenience or embarrassment by their employers P&O sending mass-produced letters, or none, of appreciation P&O dumping seemingly spare “medals” through crew letter-boxes P&O spending almost twice as much on its learned counsel as it was prepared to pay Sheen P&O not offering to pay the £10 Buckingham Palace pettily charged for each commemorative photograph P&O’s niggardly, minimal, compensation awards, paid only after a fight. with more tales coming to light.
Illustrative of this mindset, a “final” word might go to Peter Ford, former chairman of Townsend Thoresen, retired and living in London, aged 88, when he made this observation in the 25th anniversary year of 2012: “It was a very difficult situation. Probably the biggest mistake that we made is that we somewhat underestimated the number of people who had been killed, saying it was about 136 when actually it was 193 . I think we did the right thing to accept responsibility and do our best in what were extremely difficult circumstances, but we didn't get everything right.”
Now over to Wallace Ayers, former technical director of Townsend Thoresen, who took early retirement three weeks after the sinking. Again in 2012, Mr. Ayers, then aged 73 and living in Reigate, was anxious to observe: “It [my criminal trial] was, as far as I'm concerned, a monstrous injustice and a monstrous waste of money. It [the Herald’s sinking] is in the past, but it’s still in the present. The Herald of Free Enterprise was well-built and it was misused. It was just one of those tragic accidents.”
The Loss of the Princess Victoria
In March 1987, the ferry The Herald of Free Enterprise sank off Zeebrugge with the loss of 188 lives. This great tragedy occurred because the roll-on/roll-off ferry had sailed with its bow doors open, a court subsequently discovered.
While many have heard of the disaster of the Herald, far fewer remember the loss of the Princess Victoria ferry 34 years earlier in the great storm of January 1953. On that occasion 133 people died, making it the UK’s greatest post-war maritime disaster at that time.
The Princess Victoria, built in 1947 by shipbuilders William Denny and Brothers of Dumbarton, was the fourth ship of that name to provide ferry services around the UK. An earlier Princess Victoria had been sunk in the Humber estuary during World War II.
The latest Princess Victoria was one of the first of a new type of ferry to be used in UK and European waters. Weighing in at 2694 tons, the ferry could carry up to 1500 passengers as well as cars and lorries. The ferry was designed to serve between Stranraer in Scotland and Larne in Northern Ireland and was equipped with the most up-to-date navigational equipment.
Most importantly from the perspective of passengers and freight carriers, the Princess Victoria was one of the latest drive on/drive off vessels, of the type that would come to be known as ro-ro (roll on/roll off) ferries. Drivers drove onto the cargo deck of the ship via a ramp at the stern, the deck then being closed off by two doors about 5’ 7” (1.7m) in height that acted as a bulwark, but not a seal, against the sea.
Anyone who has made a ferry trip across the North Channel between Stranraer or Cairnryan and Northern Ireland will know what a pleasant experience this is in good weather. The conditions at sea can change dramatically and suddenly in this part of the world, but the ferry companies and their passengers now benefit from the latest in satellite technology to provide ongoing forecasts.
On 31st January 1953, long before satellites, the Met Office and the BBC Shipping Forecast provided the best information for vessels at sea. The forecast that day reported that a deep depression to the north-west of Scotland would bring gale-force north-westerly winds right across the path of the Princess Victoria, due to begin her regular crossing from Stranraer to Larne at 7.45 that morning.
Her captain was James Ferguson, who had worked on the crossing for 17 years. The Princess Victoria also carried a crew of 49 to 51 crew – sources vary – and 128 passengers – again, accounts vary. This is perhaps not entirely surprising since regulations requiring a full manifest of passengers on ferries have only become mandatory fairly recently. During bad weather conditions, some passengers booked onto ferries simply didn’t turn up.
The Princess Victoria set off on the regular route along Loch Ryan with her passengers, a few vehicles and 44 tons of cargo on board. Even in the best weather, progressing from the relatively sheltered Loch Ryan to open sea can be felt by passengers on board a ferry. That fateful morning the Princess Victoria left the loch to be met with a full gale-force storm that was already lashing the sea into 30 foot (9m) waves. The original depression forecast by the meteorologists had deepened due to a smaller secondary depression on its leading south-eastern edge.
As the bow of his vessel nose-dived into a trough of one of the immense waves, throwing passengers and crew about, Captain Ferguson realised that if he attempted to follow the south-westerly heading to Larne the ship would be beam-on to these massive waves with potentially catastrophic consequences. There was only one option – to attempt to return to Loch Ryan.
This was in itself a dangerous manoeuvre, since it would put the ship first broadside and then stern-on to those terrifying waves. The engines were slowed as the vessel prepared to turn to starboard for the return. Corkscrewing into the trough of a wave, the vessel managed to complete the turn but was pooped – smashed on the stern by the power of the waves – so that the car deck doors were damaged beyond repair and water flooded the deck.
MV Princess Victoria founders in the Irish Sea. Painting by Norman Whitla.
The immediate issue was to prevent any more water entering the stern. Bringing his ferry back about to head into the storm again, Ferguson then attempted to go astern into Loch Ryan, using the bow rudder. When the rudder couldn’t be released, the vessel hove to (attempted to maintain position) off the entrance of Loch Ryan. David Broadfoot, the ferry’s radio operator, used morse code to call for tug assistance and lifejackets were issued.
By 10.32 am, with the ferry listing and drifting sternwards down the North Channel, Broadfoot sent out a general SOS. Worsening weather conditions brought winds of 120 mph with flurries of sleet and snow reducing visibility to nil at times. Captain Ferguson continued to calm the passengers despite the dreadful circumstances.
RNLI Lifeboats were launched from Portpatrick and Donaghadee and the destroyer HMS Contest set off from the Clyde to assist shortly after 11 am. At 13.58 the Princess Victoria rolled onto her beam ends and the order to abandon ship was given. Her last reported position was five miles east of the Copeland Islands just south of the entrance to Belfast Lough.
In fact the true location of the ferry was five miles to the north of the reported position. This, along with the atrocious conditions, damage to search vessels and the demands of numerous other SOS calls meant that the Princess Victoria foundered before any rescue vessel could reach her.
When it was clear the ferry was about to go down, an attempt was made to get passengers into the safety of the ferry’s lifeboats. However, the vessel was listing so badly that while the starboard boats were in the sea but inaccessible due to the intensity of the storm, the lifeboats on the port side could only be lowered into the water as the ship was actually going down.
RNLB The Sir Samuel Kelly. The Donaghadee lifeboat rescued 33 survivors from the Princess Victoria.
It was at this moment, just as passengers were entering the lifeboats, that the Princess Victoria capsized. Several commercial vessels from Belfast Lough, the Orchy, the Lairdsmoor, the Eastcotes and the Pass of Drumochter had set off in a desperate rescue attempt. They, along with the two lifeboats, the HMS Contest and a salvage vessel, the Salveda, were initially heading for the last location provided by the ferry. It was only when the Orchy encountered wreckage that the ferry’s true location was discovered.
Just 44 people survived the loss of the Princess Victoria. The Captain and his officers did not survive, nor did any of the women and children on board. David Broadfoot, who had courageously kept contact from the radio room until the sea flooded it, was awarded a posthumous George Cross. The captains of the merchant vessels were made members of the Order of the British Empire. Officers of the HMS Contest were awarded the George Medal for their bravery in entering the water to assist the survivors.
Among the dead were the Deputy Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and the MP for North Down. The final death toll from the great storm in Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium was over 500, the foundering of the Princess Victoria being the largest single loss of life.
While the news was spreading of events in the North Channel, the inhabitants of Orkney feared a similar tragedy for one of their own steamers. The Earl Thorfinn, a conventional ferry, had gone missing at 9am on the same day, somewhere between the two of the islands of Orkney, Stronsay and Sanday. The vessel had thankfully found refuge in Aberdeen 160 miles to the south after her master, Captain Flett, managed to run with the storm despite the massive following waves that threatened to overwhelm his ship.
The memorial at Portpatrick. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Although separated by 20 miles of sea, there have always been strong links and a sense of community between the coastal towns of south west Scotland and those of Northern Ireland. Today, the tragic story of the Princess Victoria is commemorated in several locations, including a very moving memorial at Portpatrick in Scotland.
Miriam Bibby BA MPhil FSA Scot is a historian, Egyptologist and archaeologist with a special interest in equine history. Miriam has worked as a museum curator, university academic, editor and heritage management consultant. She is currently completing her PhD at the University of Glasgow.
6 MV Goya: At least 6,000 People Killed in 7 Minutes
This German transport ship had 6,100 documented passengers on board (and possibly hundreds more undocumented) when it was struck on April 16, 1945, by a Soviet submarine in the Baltic Sea during World War II. Just seven minutes after being struck by the torpedo, the ship sank, killing almost all of the passengers and crew aboard, either inside the ship, or outside by drowning and hypothermia in the icy waters. This disaster is largely believed to be the second-worst in maritime history, based on the number of casualties. The ship was loaded with women and children (only two children were among the 183 passengers who survived).
Famous Sunken Ships
Here we will talk about some such ships sunken in the watery grave, and some sunken ships never found. So, let’s go through the famous sunken ships of all time.
1. RMS Titanic
Date of shipwreck – 15 April 1912
Let’s start with the one which the entire world is familiar with, and is counted amongst the most famous sunken ships.
Although not the largest ship to have sunk, this still makes the deadliest sunken affair. More than 1500 people died in the disaster, some of which were highly affluent and wealthiest people, and many others were emigrants from parts of Europe. This ship sank after colliding with an iceberg, making its very first journey the last.
Roughly 705 people survived the mishap. No other ship till date has been able to cause such a loss to human life, even though this ship was not the largest one to wreck.
2. HMHS Britannic
Date of shipwreck – 21 November 1916
This ship was the sister liner of Titanic, and third and final ship of White Star Line’s Olympic class. This ship was termed as the safest and most affluent of the 3 sister ships, taking lessons from Titanic failure. But the first world war shook the ship badly, where an explosion near the ship collapsed it into pieces. More than 1000 people were saved, and 30 lost their lives.
This ship became the largest ship to have sunk in the waters.
3. RMS Lusitania
Date of shipwreck – 7 May 1915
When the ship was introduced, it was the largest passenger ship although for a brief period of time. It also came to be counted amongst the ships sunken during the World War 1. The Germans were accused of sinking this ship by firing without any warning.
Since it was carrying ammunitions, a second internal explosion resulted in the ship sinking within 18 minutes. And around 1200 passengers and crew, which were afloat the ship during the time of mishap, faced their deaths.
4. Nuestra Señora de Atocha
Date of shipwreck – 6 September 1622
Let’s now talk about the time of pirates and treasure.
This ship was one of the widely known vessels among the Spanish fleet of ships that met the watery grave in 1622. It was a prize ship, carrying heavy amounts of copper, gold, silver, gems, etc. and was traveling to Spain. This was one of the largest treasure haul in the entire history of pirates and treasure loot.
The wreck took place due to a hurricane that damaged the hull, pulling it to the waterbed.
5. Queen Anne’s Revenge
Date of shipwreck – 10 June 1718
This was one of the flagships of pirate Blackbeard. And in the entire history, this was regarded as one of the most fearsome ships. The pirate ran the ship for a brief period of time, before it was grounded in June 1718, and the entire crew was transferred using smaller boats.
Thousands of artifacts afloat the ship were discovered several years later.
6. Whydah Gally
Date of shipwreck – 26 April 1717
This was another one of the famous sunken ships of the pirate time period. The owner of the ship, pirate Bellamy, was one of the most successful pirate of all time. He had loot the largest fortune (approx. $120 millions in today’s time). But due to the shipwreck because of a huge storm, he never got to enjoy any of the treasure, since the entire crew along with the treasure sank in the seas.
7. RMS Republic
Date of shipwreck – 24 January 1909
This is another White Star Line ship, which was lost at sea in a collision. Due to a distress call that was issued, around 1500 people were saved, but 6 people lost their lives. This was one of the very first rescue missions that was carried out due to a radio. There were many rumors afloat that a lot of treasure went down with the ship when it sank.
8. USS Arizona
Date of shipwreck – 7 December 1941
This was an American Battleship, which was used for numerous purposes. Due to the threat of Japanese imperialism, the ship was sent to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 1940. In 1941, Japanese bombarded the ship, which resulted in its wreckage as we see today.
During that time, 1,177 crew members and officers were afloat the ship, who were killed.
9. MV Doña Paz
Date of shipwreck – 20 December 1987
This is another one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters of all time and one of the infamous ships sunken in the waters. It was a passenger ferry, which was heavily overloaded with more than 4,000 people. This ship sank after it collided with an oil tanker in 1987 and a fire explosion took place. It was a horrible disaster, since no safety measures were kept in place.
No radio was available, and the life jackets were also locked away. Around 4,386 people lost their lives due to this ship. Today, it is recalled as Asia’s Titanic.
10. HMS Erebus
Date of shipwreck – 22 April 1848
This is counted as one of the worst disasters in the history of arctic exploration. Carried out by Sir John Franklin, the 2 ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror left in 1845 to explore the Canadian Arctic. They were to find the crossing of Northwest Passage, which was never navigated before. Both of the ships were last seen in August 1845, after which they disappeared.
So far, what led to the shipwreck remains a mystery. But both the ships were icebound, and were abandoned by their crew in 1848. Although, later research found a note attached to the ship, which said that Sir Franklin lost his life before the ship was abandoned. None of the crew could be saved, and the ships were not discovered until few years later when the dead bodies of crew people started appearing on ice.
After more than 150 years, the wreck of HMS Erebus was found in icy waters near King William Island. Overall, this shipwreck was the most horrendous and fearsome disasters of all time.
This was the list of 10 of the most popular ships sunken in the seas. Does this mean ship travel is risky? Cannot generalize!
Even if you talk about any other means of travel, like bikes, cars, airplanes, etc., accidents happen very often. But that does not restrict people from taking chances and travel. Same is the case with the ships. Though a lot of disasters took place in the marine, there have been numerous successful journeys as well.
Ferry sinks in Belgium, 188 people drown - HISTORY
More than 900 people remain missing after a ferry carrying about 1,400 passengers sank in the Red Sea.
Survivors said a fire broke out on board the ship early in its voyage from Saudi Arabia to Egypt.
Around 350 survivors have been rescued, officials say, but most of the people on board the al-Salam Boccaccio '98 are feared lost.
If you have any information you would like to share with the BBC, send us your comments using the form.
This debate is now closed. Below are a selection of comments sent in by BBC news website readers.
A dreadful tragedy one that could have been avoided but for the scandalous disregard for safety checks on many transport systems in Egypt. The tragedy has been compounded by the treatment of the victim's families - instead of being offered comfort and support, such as counsellors, they are confronted by riot police and a deafening official silence.
John Grainger, Cairo
It just goes to show that whatever the religion or ethnicity, there are lots of people who are deeply upset and using this site to let the world know how sorry they are about this terrible event. I understand a fire onboard was the problem and not enough life rafts and life jackets. Shame on the owners of such a ship. They should be prosecuted.
Beryl Shannon, Cambridge, Canada
All TV news (Arabic & European) doesn't give me a sense of what happen, but I understand from one of the rescued passenger that a fire was on board, as they saw a lot of smoke. And yet no body saw the fire. So I can say that a fire was in the engine spaces and any explosion of machinery could makes holes in the underwater ship's structure so the sea water entrance and maybe the watertight doors were not closed at time or not operating well could sink the ship in the minimum of time.
Taoufik, Tangier, Morocco
No one in this tragedy is speaking of the behaviour of the Captain who refused to accept that fire was beyond his crew's control, failure to transmit a distress signal call, and then - his choice to flee the ship in the first life boat!
Al, NYC, USA
This ship was known, when it was last sold on, to be not fit for purpose. You can't sell a faulty light-bulb but you can sell a faulty ferry.
Ewan Lamont, Edinburgh, UK
My thoughts are with those who fear they have lost loved ones. In Scandinavia, the trauma from the "Estonia" ferry disaster where more that 700 persons lost their lives are still in vivid memory. We can only hope that more lives can be saved this time.
Peter, Stockholm, Sweden
I think it's high time that shipping standards in the Middle East and Asia should be updated with those in Europe of America. If this ship was sold because it was not deemed fit for European operations, then why should the Egyptians and Saudis sail in it?
Cesar Fabunan, Quezon City, Philippines
Accidents happen everywhere but in Egypt they often happen because the standards of safety and maintenance are either out of date or are not adhered to at all. God's name is often used or misused rather than human negligence from the highest level. It appears that all the people get from the Egyptian government is a lot of sweet talk and little action. Mr Mubarak please do not just say it, do it and give people what matters to life such as safe transport, clean water, and equal access to good health care. This is an integral part of freedom.
Nabil Zakher, UK
35 years is too old for all types of vessels, especially for passenger ships and what about the last audit, survival crafts and insurance companies?
Allahdad, Shiraz, Iran
The ship only had 10 lifeboats, each with a carrying capacity of some 50 people. i.e. boats for 500. Given that some 1400 souls were on board the ferry, major loss of life was inevitable in such tragic circumstances . British cross channel ferries are no difffent. They are exempt from having to carry lifeboats for 100% of passengers, by the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency. This is because they are operating on what is officially termed a "short" sea voyage. This exemption is given my most member states of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to their own vessels. The IMO is the UN agency charged with regulating shipping. It is headquartered in London.
Tim Frawley, Epsom
I have rarely seen such hospitality and courtesy extended as when I was in Egypt: my sympathies go out to all those involved.
Hopefully this disaster will lead to an enquiry which will then lead to safety measures which will ensure that this sort of tragedy is never repeated. Or am I being too optimistic after seeing the way that the Egyptian officials have dealt with anxious relatives of those on board? My heartfelt sympathy to all those who have been directly affected by the sinking.
Fiona, Insch, Scotland
This is an absolutely disgraceful situation. It's about time that all passenger liners worldwide are not allowed to be sold on without being thoroughly investigated for sea worthiness adequate passenger accommodation and the most sickening situation once again of enough lifeboats. Has this world not learnt yet from the Titanic nearly 100 years ago? I for one am extremely suspicious of a ship that appears to be so top heavy. How on earth is a vessel of this design supposed to be able to stand loss of power on a rough sea with waves hitting at its sides?
John, Silves, Portugal
This news was an unbearable for me and all my family. Hope it wont occur again in future for our dear Egyptian friends.
I feel sad to hear the news. I am really sorry for the Egyptian people. God bless them.
I am deeply sorry to hear about the ferry accident. May the almighty God help everyone to be strong.
Lukiah, San Antonio, Texas, USA
It appears that all the people get from the Egyptian government is a lot of sweet talk and little action. Mr Mubarak, please do not just say it, do it and give people what matters to life, such as safe transport, clean water, equal access to good health care.This is an integral part of freedom.
Nabil Zakher, UK
I think its high time that shipping standards in the Middle East and Asia should be updated with those in Europe of America. If this ship was sold because it was not deemed fit for European operations, then why should the Egyptians and Saudis sail in it?
Cesar Fabunan, Quezon City, Philippines
I hope that the BBC News Dept will interview the people who sold the sunk ferry and question its viability, in view of earlier disasters in the English Channel, and their ethics in selling it if they knew it would be used as a ferry.
Cyrillusrex, Preston UK
It's quite sad that something as silly as a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed upsetting people is overshadowing a tragedy such as this.
All TV news (Arabic & European) does not give me a sense of what happen, but I understand from one of the rescued passenger that a fire was on board due to a lot of smoke seeing and nobody has seeing the fire.
Captain Taoufik, Tangier, Morocco
That is really burnning my heart as a human living in the beautiful world of Humanity! The condolence of my heart's walls is there with their families and relatives. It is a big lost from the quota of Humans.
Abdul Malik Achakzai, Spin Boldak, Kandahar, Afghanistan.
I have finally come to this site. It is absolutely strange that very little news on this horrible tragedy. My husband and I have been very much concerned on this, but the news hardly appear in any of the Japanese newspaper. We want to send our deep condolence and hope the fact will be discovered and that there will be no such tragedy in this 21st century.
Is the international community helping??
I am deeply sorry to hear about the ferry accident. May the almighty God help everyone be strong.
Lukiah, San Antonio, Texas, USA
May Allah help the victims and their families. Saudi and Egyptian goverments are requested to tighten safety procedures between them.
Naser Alotaibi, Kuwait
Not knowing an awful lot about ships. Is it possible that people could still be trapped in air pockets in the ship? Nothing has been mentioned about this on the few news items I have watched. Have divers been sent down?
Wendy, Chesterfield, England
I am so sad to hear the tragic news about the al-Salam ferry. May Allah bless the survivors' courage and patience to cope with the tragedy and those who perish in the accident, may Allah bless their souls. In the meantime, I would like to request all the security departments, land, air and sea to be very very vigilant and perform their duties with honesty and courage.
Abdul Qayum Ghouri, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
It is a very sad tragedy and on behalf of all the Muslims of the United Kingdom, I take this opportunity to express our deepest heart felt sorrow and condolences to the families of those who have lost their loved ones. May Allah bless the departed souls with the highest planes in heaven. Amen.
Saqib Khan, London, UK
This news was an unbearable for me and all my family. Hope it wont occur again in future for our dear Egyptian friends.
I feel sad to hear the news.I am really sorry for the Egyptian people. God blees them.
I am very sorry to learn this, I would like to express my deepest condolence to bereaved families.
Munib, Kabul, Afghanistan
This is the most tragic transportation accident in Egypt's recent history. Such accidents are not uncommon in Egypt, and almost all of them were caused by negligence and lack of the minimum safety measures. Ironically enough, according to a report issued recently by the Egyptian ministry of transportation, the number of Egyptian citizens who died in transportation accidents have exceeded the number of those Egypt lost in all its wars against Israel. Despite the President's order to enquire the circumstances of the disaster, no one will be held responsible, and it will, like many others, sink into oblivion.
Mohamed El-Sayed, Cairo, Egypt
I am too upset to hear this event. I hope that this event is only an accident. It has upset people all around the world. God help them.
Umut Aytekin, Ankara, Turkey
This is an absolutely disgraceful situation. It's about time that all passenger liners worldwide are not allowed to be sold on without being thoroughly investigated for sea worthiness adequate passenger accommodation and the most sickening situation once again of enough lifeboats. Has this world not learnt yet from the Titanic nearly 100 years ago?
Mr Derek Frost, Southampton, UK
This is a disaster which could have been prevented if the Egyptian authorities strictly imposed the security checks on such ferries.
Saurabh Singh Chib, Jabalpur, India
It is tragic and I pray for their souls.
Michael, Pittsburgh USA
If the picture given by the BBC is accurate it looks like the ship has had a refit of the upper superstructure. It appears that they have added a whole new part to the ship as it looks very top heavy. You can still see the 'old' bridge and line of the ship. How was this approved by the classification bureaus? It might be that it lost engine power and then capsized and sunk. It doesn't look like a car ferry with bow doors ruling flooding out. It is a terrible loss of life and probably, even more terrible, preventable.
James D, Bathgate
Nearly 1,400 lives lost in a few minutes, how can this possibly happen? I feel very very sorry for all the family and hope that the survivors will recover quickly. An investigation must be carried out quickly to find out how this could possibly happen. There is a reason why there is a weight limit and overloading is extremely dangerous. Here we see an unfortunate example.
Kristina Teong, St Albans, England
This vessel's sister ship "Al Salam Petrarca" sank in 2002 due to a collision with a cargo vessel. These Italian vessels were built in the 70s "Al Salam Boccaccio" was heavily modified prior to entering service in North Africa. The modifications suggest that the vessel's centre of gravity was altered and its stability therefore compromised. This combined with even a few inches of water on a vehicle deck could lead to a severe case of "free surface effect" as vividly demonstrated by the "Herald of Free Enterprise" disaster and the near-miss on the English Channel with "St Christopher".
Chris Potts, London UK
It is an unfortunate situation as it stands. I believe overloading could be the possible problem that caused the sinking of the ferry. It is high time maritime authorities sped up efforts to check up on overloading of vessels.
Yandam L Sillim, Oslo, Norway
God bless the souls of the victims, unfortunately it's almost always the poor and already suffering that suffer the greatest disaster.
Ryan Sadi, Montreal
I can't possibly understand why no s.o.s./mayday was sent out. A ship doesn't sink five minutes no matter what the damage - the rescue of only 26 souls reported means that this is a disaster of terribly proportions - I hope that the lifeboats preserved many more.
Alan Blandford, Southampton, UK
In response to Alex Hislop's question, yes all ships of this type would be fitted with EPIRB or some equivalent which will automatically send out a distress signal to satellite on contact with water. I have head that the RAF did indeed receive such a signal. I expect that the ship sank so fast that there was little or no time to evacuate people.
Philip O'Carroll, Cork, Ireland
I feel very sad at the potentially huge loss of lives in this incident. I feel sorry for the victims who may have suffered or died unnoticed for so many hours at sea. Such poor search and rescue efforts by the authorities sometimes cynically reflects cheap value placed on lives of people from that area as opposed to people living in Europe or the US.
Azahari Ahmad, Bangi, Malaysia
I used to work on an Israeli casino boat back in the eighties. One night we lost all engine power and were blown by the wind to within several hundred metres of the Saudi coast. The winds around the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba can be extremely strong this time of year. I wouldn't rate many peoples chances after being thrown into the sea in those conditions.
Upon hearing that the ship was lost without even issuing an SOS I immediately thought of the freak wave phenomenon. Freak waves can be twice the height of waves that most ships are designed to withstand and often present a sheer wall of water rather than a steady incline that most waves have. They occur when the energy from several waves is concentrated either due to refraction/diffraction, wind direction opposing current direction or nonlinear focusing. There is a very nice article about such waves on the BBC horizon site for 2002.
James R Whitehead, Liverpool UK
It is a sad sight to see. Hopefully they can save as many as possible. Lets hope that rescue efforts go well and quickly.
Travis Bennett, Cleveland USA
Our hearts go out to the people affected by this tragic incident. People all over the world will be deeply affected by any loss of life.
John Nantais, Tecumseh Ontario Canada
I believe I speak for all who read this awful news when I say that my thoughts are with the relatives and the survivors. This is an appalling tragedy - and I sincerely hope it was an accident.
Neil Wilkes, London, England
This should come as a wake-up call for most governments. They should make sure that they put a very dependable and reserved rescue mission for extremely urgent cases like these.
Wilfred Nsubuga, Kampala, Uganda
Surely the ship should have been fitted with automatic radio beacons that should have started transmitting as soon as the ship sank. All other commercial ships are so fitted. The beacons float when the ship sinks and broadcast an emergency signal that can be used to home in on.
Alex Hyslop, Singapore
Let us hope the 'rescue mission team' can rescue survivors as much as possible. It is indeed a tragedy that will really shake the Egyptian people and the world at large.
Ibrahim I. Sadiq, Kaduna, Nigeria
My heart goes out to all affected by this tragedy. Things need to happen now and other emergency measures need to be taken to ensure safety and treatment of these people.
Dilshaad Johnstone, London, UK
There are police all around Duba. You would have thought there was a terrorist incident. The place is going crazy. Hopefully, they can recover as many survivors as they can.
Nick Clarke, Duba, Saudi Arabia
This is not the first and not the last incident that we will see with ferries in this region. It is a shame that modern technology cannot be used to improve rescue efforts in such cases as surely it is available but as ever, lack of funding results not only in accidents but in delaying any rescue efforts that maybe initiated.
Vadim Smith, Brussels, Belgium
This will shock many people throughout the Arab and Muslim world, because not only were people from Egypt coming from Saudi Arabia from their place of work but many were also returning from the holy pilgrimage of Hajj.
Ahmed Abdulla, Isleworth, London, UK
Most people using that route are coming back from the Hajj with heavy loads of luggage and mostly families of Egyptian workers from their Eid holidays and street vendors or suppliers.
Mohamed T. Mahagoub, Shrewsbury - Uk
Ferry sinks in Belgium, 188 people drown - HISTORY
From the Files of Cruise Junkie dot Com
Reported Incidents of Ships Sinking, 1979 - 2013 (N=55)
All items are drawn from the public media source. When information is provided by an onboard source, it is clearly indicated.
At 22.20 on Tuesday 26 September 2000, the Express Samina hit a rocky islet and sank with the loss of 82 of the 550 passengers, 2 km off the coast of Paros. Her captain and mate have been arrested and charged with manslaughter amid allegations that at the time of the collision the crew had left the bridge to watch the replay on one of the ship's TVs of a goal in an important local soccer match. After the collision the ship lurched violently to port and the power supply failed. All on board were then left in the dark, scrambling for life jackets and life-rafts, as the ship began sinking by the bow. The Express Samina took 45 minutes to sink. During this period most of the crew seem to have left the passengers to their own devices survivor accounts suggest that they provided little in the way of help in either finding life-jackets or launching the boats. Several of the boats were reported by survivors as being defective, and many were reduced to clinging to nearby rocky islets until they could be picked up by local fishing boats that - braving the rough seas - rushed from Parikia, or helicopters from several British Royal Navy ships that were on exercises in the area. See here for more details.
In April 2000, 11 days before its scheduled annual maintenance, the German World Discoverer cruise ship hit an uncharted reef, forcing the captain to steer it into a beach to prevent it from sinking. The 99 passengers on board were unharmed, but the ship proved unsalvageable. It remains tilted on its side at Roderick Bay, its wooden deck rotting and its hull browned with rust. Several salvage companies have attempted to retrieve the ship, but arrived too late&mdashlocals ransacked the World Discoverer for equipment during the Solomon Islands&rsquo civil war. Tidal activity has caused further damage to the structure and surface rusting. It is likely that this ship will remain in place for a long time to come, slowly crumbling into the ocean. To see the World Discoverer from above, look at the Google Maps satellite view.
Joachim Peiper’s Body Destroyed
Not surprisingly, Sigurd Peiper wanted her husband buried in Germany, but before a German burial certificate could be issued a German autopsy had to be carried out. However, Arndt Fischer told the author in June 1991 that when the body arrived from France the head was missing. It appeared later but had been sliced up and the only tooth still present was split. The German autopsy was performed by Professor Spann of the Institute for Rechtsmedizin of the University of Munich, and Peiper’s body was finally laid to rest in the cemetery of St. Anna’s church at Schondorf am Ammersee in Bavaria, along with those of his father, mother, and two brothers.
Extraordinary scenes followed the events of July 14, 1976. After a claim the following day by an unknown group calling itself The Avengers, the London Times thundered: “Avengers kill SS colonel in France,” and three days later another prominent British newspaper reported: “Cars full of sightseers converged this weekend on the small village of Traves … to get a glimpse of the burnt out house of Joachim Peiper, the former SS colonel who perhaps is not dead.”
I believe the only crime Peiper is guilty of is being a faithful NAZI Waffen SS officer many crimes were committed during the 2nd World War especially in the death camps and at the hands off Eienzasgruppen who were SS order police who committed a majority of the atrocities in the Eastern front who were real criminals who never spent a day in jail such as Joseph Mengele the waffen SS Doctor know as the angel of death there was nothing angelic about this Monster were more off an armed unit of the SS Did Pieper deserve to be murdered I will leave that to history
Joe Hernandez? Ask the families of the executed US prisoners if he was guilty of war crimes? He could have stopped it, but let it go on to avoid having to deal with prisoners. He let them be gunned down to keep his time schedule.
Peiper got what he deserved!
There is no doubt that Pieper was a Nazi he was only 29 in the Battle of the Bulge so he went through the indoctrination all his life. However Just before the start of the battle Gen. Mantuffle (SP) gave orders to take no prisoners because it would slow them down. The order was given over the radio in the clear. Pieper’s response was if they know they will be killed no matter what we have already lost as they have nothing to lose.
Although men under his command were responsible for many war crimes he was not present. In fact there is a report that he did catch some Americans (over 100). He ordered them disarmed and let go, telling his men not to kill them.
I’m not saying that he was a nice guy and I don’t know what he did on the eastern front but he was let go for some reason and the above may be it. I’m old enough to have met 3 SS officers and a Nazi youth, I wanted to strangle them with in 30 seconds of talking with them, but Pieper may not have been guilty in the cases during the Battle of the Bulge. So maybe he was not deserving of what happened… just saying.
NO……a nazi is a murderer is a nazi is a murderer is a nazi is a murderer is a nazi is a murderer is a nazi is a murderer is a nazi is a murderer PERIOD.
This was a common theme on all sides involved in the war, but hey the “victors” wrote the history. Firebombing of German cities killing hundreds if thousands of civilians? Mmmmm…US and Britain.
You’re aware that killing would-be prisoners to keep a schedule isn’t something just done by Germans?
I ran across an example recently in some Brit commando raid, and there are allegations of killing prisoners against the originasl US soldiers pictured in the Band of Brothers series. There’s a recent reality-based movie (Lone Survivor?) where not killing some herder gets everone likked, iirc… etc., etc. War is hell.
Joe, you need to read grim accounts of the torturous murders he ordered. These were not expeditious or necessary in any sense. This man proudly tried to intimidate civilians and combatants with brutally ruthless tactics. Why would his troops be infamously known as the “Blowtorch Battalion” if their leader wasn’t sadistically barbaric?
He exceled as a Hitler youth and became a trusted guard to his Fuhrer as a youth. As Himler’s right hand he personally inspected many concentration camps. Yet he claimed above, “I was never a member of the Nazi party. I was a soldier.” He was a murderous unrepentant racist liar.
We can thank Senator Joseph McCarthy for sympathetically portraying Peiper as undeserving of further imprisonment. He succeeded in lobbying for his release after serving only 12 years of a life sentence. His commuted sentence was bitterly opposed by US veterans who considered him the worst of the war criminals.
Peiper was justifiably and deservedly murdered by the French he ridiculed as cowards on Bastille Day.
pieper was more than just a Waffen SS officer. He was complicit, tried, and sentenced for the death of 84 US POWs at Malmedy..
Sooner or later, your bad deeds will come back to you. Some people call it karma, and karma is always a b**** Was it justice for all those who were murdered upon his orders? I don’t know, by his death was a horrible one, just like the deaths of those POWs he ordered to be executed. At least they died like soldiers, Peiper wasn’t so lucky as he died like a hounded criminal.
He was a coward,nothing more. He cowardly killed dozens of unarmed soldiers in Malmedy. Many of them tied up and at close range. Peiper should have hung
The bastard got what he deserved.
Should have been topped at the end of the war anyway
As a former combat officer in Vietnam and West Pointer, I must say Colonel Peiper got what he deserved !! Too bad it didn’t happen sooner. He literally got away with murder. His eventual doom wasn’t grotesque enough!
lt. Colonel Pieper was a war criminal, as surely as any of the top Nazis at Nuremburg. The allies had plenty of atrocities attributed to them as well, so this was the gist of why Pieper was released after given a 35 year sentence after his death sentence was commuted. He served only 2 years after given the step down sentence, I agree that while macabre, his death was just an extension of his life. He did not give his victims at Malmedy any mercy, so the partisans who were responsible for his death only returned the favor. He had the opportunity to leave with his wife and return to Germany on the 12th of July, but like the arrogant Nazi he was he thought he could defend himself against anyone, and in the end justice was served. Power corrupts, and Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
After the war the west German court system was quite lenient with their sentencing of was criminals. The heads of industry such as I B Farben were given slaps on the wrists and many of the SS monsters in death camps got small sentences.
Being a Army Veteran what he did to those military Prisoners is inhumane, instead of treating them like prisoners under the Geneva Convention he murdered them in cold blood he is nothing more than a barbarian who got what he deserved.
They should have hanged Pipers on fish hooks for shooting down prisoners of war.
Hard to believe that an American General had paroled the NAZI.
He deserved his dying in his burning home and in French.
Once your beliefs are ingrained,especially at a young age,it’s pretty tough to dislodge them.”Once a Nazi always a Nazi”was the truth more than “I was not political”.One guy’s comment got it right.”Absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
Peiper was a faithful accolyte of Hitler and of Hitler’s ruthless war fighting dictums, which was precisely why he was chosen to be the point of the spear in the desperate drive to the Meuse River. It was understood that this Kampfgruppe, 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, would not be able to take prisoners in its rush to the west It was assumed that Peiper and his men would have to kill any prisoners taken, and that is why this particular division was given the job…they were experienced butchers, veteran war criminals. Again…I repeat…this was the operational plan from the gitgo. Peiper’s men massacred civilians as well as GI’s in the Battle of the Bulge. This was also not an aberration. The reason given by the Nazi’s for murdering civilians, was that German speaking Belgians who had accommodated the Allies were traitors. Even that excuse doesn’t account for the murder of women and children. These brutal tactics were simply SOP for the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, and for its commander.