Worst Maritime Disasters in Recent Years

Worst Maritime Disasters in Recent Years

When onboard a ship, sometimes we feel the danger of the possibilities that can result in an accident. However, marine transformation is mostly dreadless and safe due to the strict regulations. All the same, in the main by human error, things can not go well and rarely though, does that result in an accident

The very first thing that comes to mind is, no doubt, The Titanic disaster in terms of the maritime disasters yet it is not even the deadliest of all. As you can guess, shipbuilding technologies were not as improved as they are today. On the other hand, even though the strengthening developments have been implemented in the last few decades, most of the worst maritime disasters happened in recent years. In the next paragraphs, we go deep into how and why that occurred. 

Here are the ones that impinged on us at worst.

MV Doña Paz – MT Vector Collision 

In aviation history, the deadliest accident occurred at Tenerife Airport with two passenger aircraft colliding on the runway under the influence of fog. Resulting in 583 fatalities, which was the most devastating accident in aviation history. Yet, the disaster that gave never-ending anguish, also changed the industry forever. Sadly, the worst maritime disaster was also due to a collision. This time, it had occurred in the Philippine offshores, in the Tablas Strait near Marinduque.

On December 20, 1987, the Japanese built and the Philippines-flagged passenger ferry MV Doña Paz was on her way to the Philippine capital of Manila from Leyte Island with a stopover at Catbalogan, Samar. An excrescent number of passengers was on board that day. More than 2000 of them were not included in the ship manifest. However, the fatal faults were not limited to these. Allegedly, the ship did not have a radio which was extremely necessary for the voyage and also, the life jackets were locked away.

While the majority of the passengers were sleeping, at 22.30 in local time, an ear-splitting crash was heard. MV Doña Paz collided with the oil tanker MT Vector which was en route from Bataan to Masbate. 1041 tonnes of gasoline and other petroleum products were carried by Vector. 

In a matter of seconds, a fire ignited from cargo in Vector spread to Doña Paz. As a consequence of the impact, lights also went out and limited life vests could not be found. Terrorful moments ended only two hours later with a result of sinking under the waters of Tablas Strait. Vector was also sunk but it lasted about four hours.

When the truth was unearthed, it elicited that an estimated total of 4,386 innocent souls perished. Only 26 of the passengers on Doña Paz were rescued, and most of them were severely injured by the flames. All the crew members on Doña Paz lost their lives yet 2 out of 13 crew members of Vector survived. 

The deadliest maritime disaster of all time was a result of plenty of deadly errors. In 1999, the Supreme Court of the Philippines ruled that it was the owners of Vector who were liable. Vector was operating without a license but even worse there was no qualified, adequate shipman on board. 

However, the officials of MV Doña Paz were no less guilty. Even though the capacity of Doña Paz was 1,518 passengers, there were more than 4000 people on board on the day of the tragedy. The massive overloading increased the impact of the collision and accelerated the sinking. Also, despite being officially eligible to operate, none of the Dona Paz crew members was at their posts when the collision occurred. Sadly, the catastrophe was preventable yet extenuated actions resulted in the loss of thousands of hopes.


Sinking of The MV Le Joola

Learning from past events is crucial no matter what industry in talking matter. Afraid so, once again, fifteen years later the sinking of MV Doña Paz, the very same deadly error which is overloading caused the loss of 1,863 lives. This time on the coast of The Gambia.

MV Le Joola was given her name from an ethnic group found in Senegal, the Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau. MV Le Joola was 79 meters long and also had 12 meters of beam. She was a Senegalese government-owned roll-on/roll-off ferry, equipped with state of the art technology rescue equipment. It was usually worked twice a week in order to travel to people who sold mangoes and palm oil in Dakar. However, before the accident, the ship was called back to repair and had been out of service for almost a year long. There were lots of problems that occurred attributed to poor maintenance.

On 26 September 2002, Le Joola was on her route between southern Senegal and Dakar. Despite the real number being unknown, an estimated 1,863 passengers, many of them children returning to the capital before the schools are open, were onboard. In spite of that, the ship was actually designed to the limits of 580 passengers and crew. The MV Le Joola was built only to be sailed in coastal waters yet at around 11 pm, she headed towards the coast of Gambia where rough seas and wind were extremely effective. In a couple of shakes, the ferry no longer could resist waves and capsize. 

One of the hardest to swallow and depressing details about the accident was the fact that actually a considerable amount of passengers were still alive at the first four of the tragedy yet insufficient rescue efforts led them to perish. Only 64 passengers were rescued. The sole female survivor was a pregnant woman, Mariama Diouf, out of more than 600 females on board that day. Le Joola remained capsized for four hours but then it no longer resisted to waves and finally sank.


Sinking of The MS Estonia

The early 90s were rousing times for Estonians. In the infancy years of their independence, everything seemed fine on its way to Estonia. Though, on 28 September 1994, an unexpected disaster left a non-healing wound to the hearts of the people of this small nation.

In 1993, Cruiseferry which was built in 1980 at German shipyard Meyer Werft was sold to Nordström & Thulin for use on Estline’s Tallinn–Stockholm traffic. She was named after the name of the country and became the symbol of the power of the independence of the nation. MS Estonia was the largest Estonian-owned ship of the time.

Route from the Estonian capital Tallinn to the Swedish capital Stockholm was quite popular at the time and it only took about an hour. The RORO ship was completely full on 27 September 1994, there were 803 passengers and 186 crew. The majority of them were rather Swedish or Estonian but there were also people with passports from fifteen other countries. Inside the ship, no apprehension or dread was perceived. Some of the passengers were savouring the restaurant and karaoke bars. Most of them went to bed before the start of the new day.

However, on the first hour of the new day which will never be forgotten, a metallic bang was heard. According to the survivors, the terror lasted for one hour. Initially, they realized the flowage in their tiny rooms. Then the light went out and the ship started to sink. In comparison to other examples of Ro-Ro sinkings, MS Estonia disappeared from radar and sank completely like greased lightning. In the end, only 137 passengers could be rescued. Inflatable life rafts were their shelter until the rescue equipment finally arrived. Most of the deaths were caused by drowning and hypothermia. The water temperature was 10–11 °C that night. 

The families that lost their members in the biggest maritime disaster in European waters could never receive a straight answer about the reason for the tragedy. Official investigation and report initially concluded that the sinking was caused by the bow visor failure. According to the report, the locking system of the ship’s bow visor was defective, flooding the car deck and causing the vessel to roll over and sink. Regardless, the accident caused the changes in the regulations and the requirements.

However, because the non-state-related experts that examined the accident disagreed with the report, families were never satisfied with the explanation. For the experts, the report remained incapable of explaining how fast the MS Estonia sank. The implication of experts necessitated the hole in the hull area which was never mentioned in the report. 

After the accident, most of the families also demanded the remains of their relatives in order to honour them with a grave. However, controversially, the governments of Sweden and Estonia negotiated and ended up burying the whole ship with a shell of concrete. The Estonia Agreement, a treaty not only with Sweden and Estonia but other countries located on the frontiers of the Baltic Region and the UK, was signed in 1995. According to the treaty, thousands of tons of pebbles were dropped on the site, also diving activities to rescue or monitor became prohibited. However, some of the divers professionalized in debris removal have already demonstrated the possibility of how bodies can be resurfaced. The disputatious treaty resulted in lots of conspiracy theories because it left an infamous impression on the governments as if they were trying to cover up something.

The 1994 Baltic ferry disaster still puts a question mark in the minds.


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