Passenger Ship Disasters - Part 12
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Smaller Ferries
- 3 Some ferry disasters in Japan and South Korea
- 4 Sample Losses of Japanese & Korean Ferries
- 5 China
- 6 Some Losses of Chinese Ferries
- 7 Indonesia, PNG and Philippines
- 8 Sample Losses of Indonesian, PNG & Philippine Ferries
- 9 Bangladesh
- 10 Sample Losses of Bangladeshi ferries
- 11 Africa
- 12 Sample Losses of African ferries
- 13 People Trafficking across the Mediterranean
- 14 Losses of Smaller Ferries
- 15 Bibliography
- 16 Photographs
This series of articles provides a listing of all major passenger ships that have been lost in service. For comparison, there are also articles covering some the most significant losses of smaller passenger vessels and ferries. The articles also provide commentary on some of the most significant incidents.
For practical and technical reasons, the Articles are presented in the following parts: -
- Part 1. Definitions and the Development of International Passenger Ship Regulations
- Part 2. Fire
- Part 3. Collision,
- Part 4. Other Navigational Error
- Part 5. Structural Failure and Foundered
- Part 6. Hostilities – World War 1 and the Spanish Civil War
- Part 7. Hostilities – World War 2
- Part 8. Ship Safety Analysis – Passenger vessels over 10,000 GRT
- Part 9. Some smaller passenger vessel losses
- Part 10. Some losses of ferries below 10,000 GRT in European Waters
- Part 11. Some losses of ferries below 10,000 GRT in USA, Canada & Australasia
- Part 12. Some losses of ferries below 10,000 GRT in South East Asia & Africa
This article covers some of the ferries below 10,000 GRT that have been lost in South East Asian & African waters in peacetime.
The earlier parts of these articles set out to provide a comprehensive record of all passenger vessels above 10,000 GRT that have been lost. Excluding the effects of hostilities, the world passenger ship fleet has suffered a total of 116 ship losses in the 125 years since the first ship over 10,000 GRT entered service. Of these 43 ships were lost to fire while in port (at a cost of 5 lives) and 73 at sea for all other reasons (7,301 lives). This vessel size was selected for the earlier articles for practical reasons. Many ferries are now over 10,000 GRT and sadly the list of larger passenger ships lost over the past 45 years includes 18 ferries (3,207 lives).
Ferries are defined in these articles as passenger carrying vessels engaged on regular, relatively short distance routes. This definition includes inland waterway craft, excursion, coastal and sea-going vessels, including ships providing passengers with sleeping accommodation for one or two nights. The ferry industry has in the past 45 years also become increasingly devoted to the carriage of motor vehicles using ro-ro technology.
The trade publisher ShipPax Information calculates that on 1 January 2013 there were 1,147 ferries over 1,000 GRT, carrying vehicles and passengers below decks, in service throughout the world. Of these 426 were over 10,000 GRT. It also calculates that this ferry fleet carried 2.183 billion passengers; 258 million cars; 842 thousand buses and 39 million trailers, on 7.5 million trips in 2013.
The sheer volume of this traffic has led SOLAS to devote special attention to the safety problems that have arisen during the development of ro-ro ship designs. Those involving ships over 10,000 GRT have been covered in earlier articles; this article will address some of the disasters that befell smaller ferries in South East Asian and African waters.
There are of course many ferries in service today that are below 10,000 GRT and in the Third World many are not vehicle carriers. These vessels usually operate domestic services and their design, build standards and maintenance regimes are not required to conform to SOLAS standards. Serious overloading is major concern in many areas. Nevertheless, SOLAS has begun a pilot study for the introduction of appropriate safety standards in Bangladesh. This is however making very slow progress. Bangladesh ferries carried some 90 million passengers in 2008; a figure that is not included in the ShipPax Information totals quoted above.
It is in the nature of ferry services that the ships are required to operate in confined and crowded waters, in all but the most severe weathers. These factors have been significant contributors to many of the disasters recorded in this article.
Some ferry disasters in Japan and South Korea
Many of the Japanese and South Korean ferry disasters have happened when ships have been caught in the severe storms, which in the North West Pacific are called Typhoons. The post-war Japanese response to these disasters has been to devote considerable economic resources to the construction of major bridges and tunnels, to reduce or eliminate the need for ferry services. The author has been unable to obtain details of most of the vessels in the following table. Early casualty figures are approximate.
Sample Losses of Japanese & Korean Ferries
|1944||Taramizu Maru No6||Japanese||Foundered||?||?||400|
|1953||Chang Tyong-ho||South Korean||Foundered||?||?||249|
|1954||Toya Maru||Japanese National Railways||Foundered||1947||3,898||1,153|
|1955||Shiun Maru||Japanese National Railways||Collision||?||?||168|
|1957||Kitagawa Maru No 5||Japanese||Collision||?||?||113|
|1993||Seo Hae||South Korean||Foundered||?||?||285|
The Japanese National Railways vehicle ferry Toya Maru was launched by Mitsubish,i at Kobe on 21 November 1947, for use in the Tsugaru Strait service, operating between Aomori and Hakodate. She was 3,898 GRT; 373 feet long (bp), 52 feet beam; twin screw with steam turbine machinery. She was authorised to accommodate 1,128 passengers and 120 crew.
Photo 1: Toya Maru
Typhoon Marie was travelling northeast across Japan on 26 September 1954 and was predicted to reach the Tsugaru Strait at around 17:00. At 11:00 Toya Maru arrived at Hakodate after its first journey of the day from Aomori. She was scheduled to return at 14:40, to arrive at Aomori just before Typhoon Marie. However, due to the expected storm, another ferry the Dai 11 Seikan Maru, was unable to take its scheduled journey to Hakodate, resulting in the transfer of its passengers and vehicles to Toya Maru; delaying her departure.
At 15:10 Toya Maru had still not sailed and her captain decided to cancel the journey because of the rising wind and heavy rainfall in Hakodate, but at 17:00 the weather cleared and the outlook improved. The captain presumed that the Typhoon had now passed, as predicted and decided to proceed with the journey for Aomori. In reality however the Typhoon had slowed and was gaining strength over the Sea of Japan.
At 18:39 Toya Maru departed from Hakodate, with approximately 1,300 passengers aboard. The exact number is unknown. Immediately after the ferry cleared the port the wind picked up, coming from a SSE direction and the Captain decided not to continue the voyage. At 19:01, Toya Maru anchored just outside Hakodate Port to wait for the weather to improve, however due to the high winds, the anchor did not hold. Water entered the vehicle decks and began to reach the engine room and the ship became uncontrollable. The ferry was blown sideways onto Nanae Beach, in the outskirts of Hakodate City at 22:26 and an SOS call was made. The waves were so strong that the ship rolled over and at around 22:43 capsized and sank several hundred meters off the shore. Only 150 people survived and it was officially believed that 1,159 died. Four other ferries sank in the same typhoon with a total loss of life of 1,430
Photo 2: The wreck of Toya Maru
The Korean ferry Sewol was built in Japan in 1994 by Hayashikane Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. as Ferry Naminoue, for Oshima Unyu. She was sold in 2007 to the Japanese company A-Line Ferry and in 2012 to the Korean operator Chonghaejin Marine Company. Soon after the purchase, Chonghaejin made extensive modifications by adding a total of 240 passenger cabins to the third, fourth, and fifth decks, increasing the passenger capacity from 804 to 921 and the ship’s structural weight by 239 tons. These modifications significantly increased the height of Sewol’s centre of gravity and to offset this, the Korean Register of Shipping reduced its cargo capacity to 1,077 tons and required the ship to carry 1,695 tons of ballast. The Register accepted the use of water ballast, rather than the more secure concrete/scrap steel permanent ballast usually required in these circumstance.
Photo 3: Sewol
When Sewol entered service in March 2013, she became the fourth ship to be operated by the company, and the second to be placed in its Incheon to Jeju route. She made three round trips per week each voyage taking 13.5 hours to complete. By 15th April 2014 she had made the round trip 241 times, but her regular Captain had made several reports to Chonghaejin concerning her dangerous lack of stability; the latest being made on 9th April. The owners responded by threatening to sack the Captain. On 1st April the Captain had also requested the repair of the malfunctioning steering gear, but this had not been carried out.
On 15th April, Sewol’s regular Captain was on leave and she was commanded by 69-year old Captain Lee Joon-seok. He had over 40 years of experience at sea, and had worked on the route before. He was hired on a one-year contract and for this voyage commanded 33 crew, of which 19 were irregular, part-time workers.
Sewol was scheduled to leave Incheon on 18:30, but she was delayed by thick fog, finally leaving about 21:00 and was the only ship to leave port on that evening. She was carrying 476 passengers and crew, which was well below her legal capacity of 921. The passengers included 325 schoolchildren on a field trip. Only five passengers were not Korean. She was carrying 124 cars, 56 trucks, and 1157 tons of cargo. This was a total of 2,142 tons, almost twice the authorized limit of 1,077 tons. This excess had been offset by reducing the water ballast to 761 tons, less than half of the required 1,695 tons.
At 08:00 on 16th April the 25-year old third mate, Park Han-gyeol, began her scheduled 4-hour watch on the bridge. Park had one year’s experience of watch-keeping, including 5 months experience on Sewol. The helmsman was Cho Joon-ki, who had 6 months experience on Sewol. Captain Lee was on the bridge for the change in the watch, but he left the bridge at 08:08. He returned again from 08:37 until 08:41 when the ship was entering the Maenggol Channel, which was notorious for its strong currents, but served as a valuable shortcut through the islands off the south-west coast of Korea. Park had no previous experience of navigating the channel.
Park was monitoring the ship’s radar and radio at 08:48 when she decided that another ship was approaching on a collision course and gave orders to Helmsman Cho to alter Sewol’s course. It would seem that a combination of steering gear malfunction and the strong currents resulted in the ship failing to respond as Park intended, leading her to issue a series of urgent orders that added to the helmsman’s confusion and after an initial hesitation the ship made an abrupt turn to starboard.
The abruptness of the turn caused Sewol to list heavily to port and unsecured cargo, containers and vehicles slid to that side of the ship severely reducing Sewol’s inadequate existing righting force and allowing water to enter the ship through the side door of the cargo loading bay and the stern car ramp. This was sufficient to prevent the ship from regaining stability and by 08:50 it had a 30 degrees list to port. The Captain and the other officers rushed to the bridge. The Chief Engineer stopped the engines, and ordered an evacuation of the engine room. Third Mate Park was crying. The ship made a 45-degree turn; began drifting sideways and the lights went.
At 08:55 the ferry established contact with the Jeju Vessel Traffic Service and asking them to notify the Coast Guard that the ship was rolling and in danger. The VTS called the Jeju Coast Guard and at 08:58 the Mokpo Coast Guard dispatched a patrol vessel in response. During this time, the captain told passengers to stay in their cabins. The communications officer used the ship's intercom to repeatedly order passengers not to move. Sadly the schoolchildren fully obeyed this order.
The ship began communicating with the Jindo VTS, which was closer to her location and confirmed that the ferry was capsizing. At 09:14 the crew stated that the ship's angle of heel made lifeboat evacuation impossible and four minutes later reported that the ferry had heeled more than 50 degrees to port. At 9:23 a.m., VTS ordered the crew to ask all passengers to wear personal life jackets, but the crew replied that the broadcasting equipment was out of order. VTS told them to personally order the passengers to wear life jackets and warm clothing. Around 09:30 the captain gave the order to abandon ship, although this may not have been relayed to all the passengers. At 09:38 a.m., all communications between the ferry and VTS ended. About three minutes later, about 150 to 160 passengers and crew started to jumped overboard.
Photo 4: Rescue helicopters arriving over Sewol. Note the unsecured red deck containers have shifted to port
A number of vessels had arrived on the scene. They began assisting the coastguard patrol boat and helicopter rescue efforts. Many passengers, including most of the students followed the earlier announcements to stay in their cabins, even as the waters came in. Other passengers climbed onto the side of the ship or jumped into the water were rescued. The captain, the chief engineer, and the first and second mates were the first people to be rescued, around 09:46.
Photo 5: Sewol on her beam ends
Sewol took two and a half hours to sink, but even at 09:00 on 18 April 50 centimetres (20 in) of the bulbous bow was above water. By 13:03 however, the ship was completely submerged. The slow final sinking of the ferry led to an intense effort by teams of divers to enter the vessel, but they only recovered dead bodies. In total 172 people were rescued and he final death toll was 304 passengers and crew and sadly 2 of the rescuers were also killed.
On 11 November 2014, the Gwangju District Court found Captain Lee Jun-seok guilty of negligence and he was sentenced to 36 years' imprisonment. The judges said that he was clearly not the only person responsible for the tragedy and they accepted that his negligence did not amount to intent to kill. The chief engineer was found guilty of murder and jailed for 30 years. Thirteen other crew members were given jail sentences of up to 20 years on charges including abandonment and violating maritime law.
Like most Communist regimes, China is reluctant to admit that accidents ever happen in their perfect society. Despite this, Huang Zhendong, the Chinese Communications Minister, announced on 20 May 2002 that there had been 123 deaths, in 249 ferry accidents, in the first four months of that year. He went on to demand an end to overloading of ferries. The author has been able to glean the following brief details of some Chinese ferry disasters:
Some Losses of Chinese Ferries
|1948||Kiang Ya||China Merchants S N||WW2 Mine||1939||3,731||2,750|
|1983||Red Star 312||Chinese||Foundered||?||?||147|
|2012||Lama IV||Hong Kong Electric Co||Collision||?||?||39|
|2015||Easter Star||Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corporation||Foundered||?||?||396|
One of the deadliest passenger ship disasters was the loss of the Chinese steamship Kiang Ya, in the mouth of the Huangpu River, south of Shanghai, on 4 December 1948.
Kiang Ya was a vessel of 3,731 GRT; 322 feet long, with a beam of 50 feet. She was licensed to carry 1,186 passengers, but because of the urgent need to transport refugees fleeing the advancing Communist army, during the Chinese Civil War, there were officially 2,250 passengers on board. It is estimated that as many as 1,200 additional people, managed to gain access to the ship before she sailed. As there was no count of the actual number of people that boarded Kiang Ya, the final death count will never be known.
Photo 6: Kiang Ya
The steamer left Shanghai for Ningpo late in the afternoon and by 18:30 had almost cleared the Huangpu River and was approaching the open sea. A massive explosion occurred near the stern of the ship and Kiang Ya sank quickly in shallow water onto the bed of the river. Passengers on the lower decks were either killed by the explosion, or trapped by the inrushing water. Some 700 survivors escaped because they were able to reach the top deck, where they stood in water up to their waists, until help arrived.
The explosion wrecked the ship’s radio, preventing the transmission of an SOS. The survivors waited an estimated three hours before the steamship Hwafoo came upon the disaster scene, discovered the people standing on the wreck, and radioed for help. The injured survivors were taken to hospitals in Shanghai.
It was believed that the Kiang Ya struck an old Japanese mine that had been lurking in the river since Sino-Japanese War. It is thought that the mine was laid prior to the Japanese capture of Shanghai in 1937. As the original hostilities that led to the sowing of the mine were long over, the disaster is included in this section of these articles. At least 2,750 people are thought to have died in the disaster, although some sources indicate as many as 3,920.
Indonesia, PNG and Philippines
Indonesia, PNG and the Philippines are Oceania nations. Indonesia consists of 17,508 islands and has a population of 206 million; the Philippines consist of 7,107 islands with a population of 92 million. Ferry services are essential to these nations and are heavily used, with the result that if any ferry is involved in an accident it is likely to be carrying a large number of people.
The leading Indonesian ferry operator is the national shipping company P. T. Pelayaran Nasional Indonesia, known throughout the country as Pelni. Since 1983 the German shipbuilder Meyer Werft in co-operation with local shipbuilder PT.PAL have delivered a fleet of modern, but very basic ferries for the Pelni services. In addition there are a large number of private operators (some unlicensed) using second hand vessels.
Photo 7: The Meyer Werft built KM Awa, operated by Pelni, represents the highest standard of Indonesian ferry
Photo 8: Economy Class accommodation on KM Awa. Many more passengers sleep on the deck
The Philippine services are dependent upon second hand ferries, often acquired from Japan. The following table may give the impression that ferry safety has improved in the Philippines. Sadly this is not the case. Philippine ferries have grown in size and are now often over 10,000 GRT. Losses suffered by the Philippine company Sulpicio feature prominently in the earlier parts of these articles covering larger vessels.
Sample Losses of Indonesian, PNG & Philippine Ferries
|1987||Dona Paz||Sulpicio (Philippine)||Collision||1963||2,602||4,314|
|1995||Viva Antipolo VII||Viva Shipping||Fire||?||?||72|
|1995||Kimelody Cristy||Moreta Shipping Lines||Fire||1972||948||37|
|1996||Cebu City||William (Philippine)||Collision||1972||2,452||140|
|1999||KM Bismas Raya 2||Indonesian||Fire||?||?||361|
|1999||Asia South Korea||Trans-Asia Shipping||Wrecked||1972||2,840||58|
|2002||Maria Carmela||Montenegro Shipping Lines||Fire||?||?||45|
|2002||KM Palau Muda||Indonesian||Foundered||?||?||23|
|2006||KM Surya Makumur Indah||Indonesian||Foundered||?||?||35|
|2007||Lavinia 1||PT Praga Jaya Sentosa (Indonesia)||Fire||1980||2,000||55|
|2008||MBca Don Dexter||Philippine||Foundered||?||?||52|
|2010||Mandiri Nusantara||Prima Vista||Collision||1976||8,257||3|
|2010||Superferry 9||Abotiz Transport System||Foundered||1986||7,269||10|
|2011||Laut Teduh 2||PT Bangun Putera Ramaja||Fire||1989||4,101||28|
|2011||KM Kirana IX||Indonesia||Fire||1989||4,101||8|
|2012||Rabaul Queen||Rabaul Shipping||Foundered||1989||259||321|
|2012||Super Shuttle Ro-Ro 1||Asian Marine Transport||Wrecked||1978||4,090||1|
|2012||Josille II||Atienza Shipping||Foundered||?||96||5|
|2013||Bahuga Jaya||Atosim Lampung Pelayarin||Collision||1972||4,311||8|
|2013||Ferry Express Bahari 8C||Indonesian||Fire||?||?||7|
|2013||Lady of Mount Caramel||Medallion Transport||Foundered||?||?||9|
|2014||Maharlika II||Philharbor Ferries||Foundered||1984||1,866||3|
The Philipine ferry Doña Paz was built in 1963 by Onomichi Zosen of Onomichi, Hiroshima Japan, as Himeyuri Maru and had a passenger capacity of 608 people for Japanese domestic ferry service. She was sold to Sulpicio Lines in 1975 and was initially renamed as Don Sulphico and later, Doña Paz. Her official passenger capacity was increased to 1,424 persons.
Photo 9: Dona Paz measured 2,602 GRT; 305 feet 5 inches LOA, by 44 feet 7 inches beam. She was single screw and her diesel machinery provided a service speed of 18 knots, when the ferry was built
On 20 December 1987, Doña Paz departed Tacloban City, Leyte at 06:30, for Manila via Catbalogan City, Samar. The vessel was due in Manila at 04:00 the following day and she last made radio contact at around 20:00. At around 22:30 the ferry was off Dumali Point, in the Tablas Strait, near Marinduque. The weather was clear but the sea was choppy. While most of the passengers were asleep, Dona Paz collided with the tanker Vector, en route from Bataan to Masbate, on charter to Caltex Philippines, carrying for them 8,800 barrels of gasoline and other petroleum products.
The collision ignited Vector's cargo and the fire spread onto the Doña Paz. Doña Paz sank within two hours of the collision, while Vector sank within four hours. Both ships sank in about 545 meters of water in the shark-infested Tablas Strait. It reportedly took eight hours before the Philippine maritime authorities learned of the accident, and another eight hours to organize search and rescue operations. Amazingly 26 survivors were rescued; 24 passengers from Doña Paz, plus 2 crew members from Vector. None of the Doña Paz crew survived. Most of the survivors sustained burns from jumping into the flaming waters.
Survivors from the ferry recalled sensing the crash and an explosion, which caused panic on the vessel. The flames spread rapidly throughout the ship, the ship’s lights failed and that the sea itself was on fire. It was claimed that there were no life vests available on Doña Paz and that none of the crew gave any orders. It was also claimed that the life jacket lockers were locked.
The authorities were faced with a major problem of establishing the total number of people who were on board the vessel at the time of the collision. The official passenger manifest listed 1,493 passengers and 60 crew members aboard. A revised manifest released on 23 December 1987 showed 1,583 passengers and 58 crew members on Doña Paz, however it was well known that extra tickets were usually purchased illegally aboard the ship at a cheaper rate and those passengers were not listed on the manifest. Holders of complimentary tickets and non-paying children, below the age of four were likewise not listed on the manifest. Survivors said that passengers were sleeping along corridors, or on cots with three or four persons on them. Of the 21 bodies that had been identified five days after the accident, only one of the fatalities was listed on the official manifest.
The eventual official death toll was later recorded at 1,749, a figure which made the tragedy the third worst ferry accident in history. Nonetheless, it is generally accepted that the actual death toll was significantly greater. The generally accepted estimated is that 4,341 lives were lost in the sinking of Doña Paz, making it the world's worst peacetime maritime tragedy.
Although none of the ferry’s crew survived, the initial investigation conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard, stated that only one trainee member of the crew of Doña Paz was on the bridge when the accident occurred. Other officers were either drinking beer or watching television, while the ship's captain was watching a movie on his Betamax. Subsequent inquiries revealed that the tanker Vector was operating without a license, lookout or properly qualified master and as a result the Board of Marine Inquiry eventually cleared Sulpicio Lines of fault in the accident. In 1999, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled that the owners of Vector were liable to indemnify the victims of the collision. Caltex Philippines, which had chartered the tanker was cleared of financial liability.
Bangladesh is situated on the Bay of Bengal, straddling the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta and is subject to annual monsoon floods and cyclones. Ferries play an essential part in the life and economy of the country. With a population of 162 million, Bangladesh is the seventh most populous country and is among the most densely populated countries in the world, but with a high poverty rate. It is perhaps inevitable that the locally built ferries are usually severely overloaded, with an unknown number of passengers aboard. As a result any accident often produces a high, but estimated death toll.
Photo 10: A typical Bangladeshi quadruple-deck ferry
Sample Losses of Bangladeshi ferries
|1973||Ghazi & Dighirpir||Bangladesh||Collision||?||?||250|
|2012||Ferry Shariatpur 1||Bangladesh||Collision||?||?||147|
Ferry accident statistics are very vague and incomplete for much of the African continent. Incidents are rarely reported outside the country, if at all. Overcrowding is endemic, maintenance is often minimal, but in many cases there is no other transportation link, or the hazards of an alternative road journey are even greater.
Photo 11: Passengers streaming off the Likoni – Mombasa ferry, while vehicles wait to board
Sample Losses of African ferries
|1983||10th of Ramadan||Egypt||?||?||?||357|
|1994||Motongwe One||Kenya Ferry Service||Foundered||?||?||272|
|2006||Al Baraqua 2||Djibouti||Foundered||?||?||124|
|2010||River Boat||D R Congo||Capsized||?||?||140|
|2011||Spice Islander||Makame Hasnuu||Foundered||1967||863||1,573|
|2012||Skagit WSF||Seagull Sea Transport||Foundered||1989||?||293|
|2013||Small wooden ferry||Nigerian||Foundered||?||?||166|
Le Joola was a Senegalese government-owned ferry named after the Joola (Dyula) people of southern Senegal. She was built in Germany in 1990 by Schiffswerft Germersheim GmbH as a coastal ferry; 2,087 GRT; 260 feet 10 inches long, 39 feet 4 inches beam, 10 feet 2inches draught; twin engines. Her certified capacity was for 536 passengers and 35 cars. She had a crew of 44.
Photo 12: The Senegalese government-owned ferry Le Joola
Although built as a coastal ferry, on 26 September 2002 Le Joola set sail at 13:30 from Ziguinchor, in the Casamance region on one of her frequent trips, cutting directly across the Southern Atlantic, between southern Senegal and the country's capital Dakar. The exact number of passengers on board remains unknown, but there were 1,046 travellers with tickets. It is believed however, that almost 2,000 passengers were on board, including 185 that boarded the ship from Carabane, an island where there was no formal port of entry, or exit for passengers. The remaining number included people who weren't required to have tickets (children aged less than 5) or because they embarked without formally paying, as was a common arrangement with the crew of Le Joola. The last radio call from the ferry was broadcast to a maritime security centre in Dakar at 22:00, reporting good sea conditions. At around 23:00, the ship sailed into a storm off the coast of Gambia. It is reported that as a result of the rough seas and wind, the ferry capsized in less than five minutes.
Government rescue teams did not arrive at the scene until the following morning, although local fishermen rescued some survivors from the sea several hours before. Some time before official rescuers arrived, local fishermen in pirogues rescued a 15 year-old boy, who confirmed that there were still many people trapped alive inside the ferry, which was still afloat upside down. There were reports of noises and screaming coming from within. Joola remained capsized but afloat until around 15:00 before she finally sank, taking with her those who were unable to get out of the ship. There were a total of 64 survivors. It was officially agreed that the death toll was 1,863 persons, but could have been nearer 2,000.
The Senegalese government established an inquiry. The French courts also launched a probe into the disaster, as several French nationals were among the dead. According to many sources, the accident was caused by a variety of factors, including possible negligence. While rough seas and wind were directly responsible for the capsizing, the ferry was only built to operate in coastal waters, but was sailing beyond this coastal limit when it capsized. Overcrowding is the most commonly mentioned factor for both the capsizing and the high number of deaths. The heat and claustrophobic conditions below deck, usually led as many passengers as possible sleep on the upper deck, on the regular crossing. This would compromise the ship’s stability, possibly allowing water to enter the vehicle deck. Although the ship was only 12 years old, she had suffered a number of technical problems in the years before the capsize, which were all attributed to poor maintenance by her owners and not to any design or construction flaws.
Photo 13: Le Joola vehicle deck
The Senegalese government offered families a payment of around US$22,000 per victim and fired several officials, but no one has ever been prosecuted and the official report was closed a year after the disaster. Officials, including high ranking members of the Armed Forces of Senegal, were moved to other posts after being charged with failure to respond quickly enough to the disaster, but little has ever been published on those responsible for the ferry being overloaded, or poorly maintained. The families of French victims refused the 2003 reparations package and pursued the Senegalese authorities in the French courts. On 12 September 2008, a French judge handed down an indictment against nine Senegalese officials, including Former Prime Minister Boye and former Army Chief of Staff General Babacar Gaye.
Senegalese official and popular reaction against these charges from the former colonial power have been hostile, with the Senegalese government issuing an international arrest warrant on 26 September 2009 against French judge, Jean-Wilfred Noel in return. The warrant alleges that the French judge abused his authority and undermined the dignity of Senegal.
Spice Islander I and Skagit WSF
Spice Islander I was an 836 GRT Ro-Ro ferry which was built in Greece in 1967 as Marianna. The ferry passed through a number of owners before she was bought by Makame Hasnuu of Zanzibar. She was placed in service as an inter-island ferry.
Photo 14: Spice Islander I
At 21:00 on 9 September 2011, Spice Islander I set sail from Zanzibar’s main island Unguja for Pemba Island, having arrived earlier from Tanzania's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. It was immediately after the Feast of Eid after the end of Ramadan and she was carrying well in excess of her registered capacity of 45 crew and 654 passengers, with many families returning home. She was also carrying unsecured vehicles, bagged rice and building materials. At around 01:00, on 10 September, Spice Islander I suffered engine failure and foundered after wallowing in the Indian Ocean. Of those on board, 620 were rescued and the death toll was eventually placed at 1,573. It is almost incredible that this small ferry is responsible for more deaths than the White Star liner Titanic.
Two small ex-Washington State passenger ferries were acquired, without change of name, for inter-island transport. On 18 July 2012 the seriously overloaded Skagit WSF departed Dar es Salaam around midday, bound for Zanzibar Island, encountered rough seas and capsized, with an estimated loss of 293 lives.
Photo 15: Skagit WSF while in service with Washington State Ferries
People Trafficking across the Mediterranean
In recent years there has been a vast upsurge of people seeking to escape poverty, violence and tyranny in war-torn and failed states of Africa and the Near East. Criminal gangs have established a lucrative people trafficking trade, providing transportation across the Mediterranean for refugees and economic migrants. The gangs use expendable small cargo ships, fishing boats and open RIBs for the crossing. All are very overcrowded and many are unseaworthy. Although a substantial number of migrants have been rescued by the Italian Navy and Coastguard, many boats founder during the voyage. The UNHCR estimate that about 8,280 have lost their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean between 2007 and 2014. It is feared that annual total for 2015 will be the worst yet.
Photo 16: An overcrowded boat rescued in Mid - Mediterranean by the Italian Navy 29 June 2014
Losses of Smaller Ferries
This article together with articles Part 10 and Part 11, cover the more notable peacetime disasters that have befallen ferries that were below 10,000 GRT. It is in not a comprehensive record and many of the casualty figures are estimates. Nevertheless it should be noted that the total number of deaths resulting from the losses recorded in these three articles is over 38,000. Many of the vessels involved were operating in national waters and not covered by SOLAS regulations. A further 8,280 refugees are thought to have died attempting to cross the Mediterranan.
In contrast, since the first SOLAS Convention in 1914, the total number of peacetime deaths as a result of the loss of passenger liners and cruise ships over 10,000 GRT is 1,582. A further 878 deaths have occurred as a result of the loss of ferries over 10,000 GRT covered by SOLAS, while a further 2,171 fatalities have been incurred during the sinking of large ferries operating outside the SOLAS regulatory system.
There is not a comprehensive single source of information covering the events recorded in these Articles, although several websites cover briefly part the story. The most useful were: -
Various Wikipedia pages covering the individual ships were helpful, as were some of the wreck-diving site pages. A number of people have devoted considerable effort to produce internet sites covering specific ships, which can be found through Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.
Information on the regulatory efforts made to improve maritime safety can be found on the IMO website: http://www.imo.org/
Books consulted include: -
- Charles Hocking – Dictionary of Disasters at Sea during the Age of Steam 1824-1962
- Arnold Kludas – Great Passenger Ships of the World – Volumes 1 to 6
- Arnold Kludas – Great Passenger Ships
- N R P Bonsor – North Atlantic Seaway – Volumes 1 to 5
- Duncan Hawes Merchant Fleets series – Volumes 1 to 40
- James E Cowen and John O C Duffy – The Elder Dempster Fleet History 1852-1985
- Neil McCart – Passenger Ships of the Orient Line
- Various ShipPax Information annual publications since 1990
One of the photographs used to illustrate this Part of the article is from the Ships Nostalgia Galleries, which are available for use in the Directory. The other photographs used to illustrate this Part are from Wikimedia Commons or are in the public domain. The individual photographs used in Part 12 are from the following sources: -
Frontispiece - Ships Nostalgia - owendvdsn
- Corbis - Bing Images
- Wikimedia Commons
- Bing Images
- Wikimedia Commons
- Wikimedia Commons
- Philippine Ship Spotters Society
- Google – AFP
- Daily Nation Kenya
- Wikimedia Commons
- Bing Images
- East Aftican Notes & Records
- Italian Navy
Article written and compiled by Fred Henderson
|Passenger Ship Disasters|
|Part 1||Part 2||Part 3||Part 4||Part 5||Part 6||Part 7||Part 8||Part 9||Part 10||Part 11||Part 12|