Top 10 of passengership disasters

Dear Bloggers,

As I am an old sailor, I started wondering about the Titanic disaster as it was rainy and cold outside and I found it time to watch the movie again. The day after I started looking up the disasters of the past years that never became so famous as there were no rich and famous on board. This is what I found strawling on the net.  I made a top 10. If it comes to tragedies the Philippines tops the charts for the World’s 10 passengership disasters in the last 20 years.

The ranking was based the number of casualties in a single maritime disaster. But three of the top maritime disasters in the past two decades happened in Indonesia. To my opinion it is shocking that taking risks at sea is not a very clever thing, it might go wrong one day.

1. MV Doña Paz (Philippines, December 20, 1987)

Passenger vessel MV Doña Paz collided with MT Vector, an oil tanker, along the Tablas Strait, between Mindoro and Marinduque. The collision ignited some 8,800 barrels of petroleum products that Vector was carrying at the time, causing a fire that rapidly engulfed the tanker and the Doña Paz. Subsequent investigations into the incident found that Dona Paz exceeded its passenger and cargo limits and that the Vector’s boat license had expired. Casualties reached 4,375.

2. MV Joola (Senegal, September 26, 2002)

The disaster happened within five minutes after MV Joola sailed to a sea of storm in the coast of Gambia. Various reasons for the disaster were cited, among them overcrowding, and negligence by management as the ship was not originally designed for sea faring. Death toll totaled 1,863.

3. MV al-Salam Boccaccio 98 (Red Sea, February 3, 2006)

Faulty drainage pumps and unpredictable weather were some of the reasons cited for the sinking of MV al-Salam Boccacio 98, a Roll-on/Roll-off ferry, into the depths of the Red Sea. Survivors and eye witnesses said a fire started at the storage area and, as the ship turned, it capsized and eventually sank. 1,018 passengers died in the disaster.

4. MV Bukoba (Lake Victoria, Tanzania, May 21, 1996)

The passenger steamer MV Bukoba sank in Lake Victoria causing 894 casualties while en route to Mwanza, a city in Tanzania. The steamer was already in bad shape before the voyage. It was also found out that the steamer was overcrowded.

5. MS Estonia (Baltic Sea, September 28, 1994)

The locks on the bow visor and bad weather caused this cruise-ferry’s demise. A total of 852 were killed during the tragedy.

6. KM Cahaya Bahari (Indonesia, June 29, 2000)

A total of 550 deaths were recorded after a storm hit and eventually capsized Cahaya Bahari, an Indonesian wooden-hulled ship, off the island of Sulawesi. The ship was overcrowded with refugees fleeing from the Maluku islands.

7. MV Nazreen 1 (Bangladesh, July 8, 2003)

The overcrowded MV Nazreen I sank at the confluence of the Padma, Meghna, and Dakana rivers, considered one of the most dangerous parts of the river from July to October. Casualties were counted at 528 although there’s no recorded number of passengers aboard.

8. Salem Express (Egypt, December 15, 1991)

The Salem Express, a roll-on/roll-off ferry sank off Safaga in the Red Sea as it was crossing the treacherous Hyndman Reefs. Because of the storm, the ship hit a reef, causing the bow visor to open, creating a hole on the starboard side. Water penetrated the ship which eventually sank in 20 minutes. Deaths were counted at 464.

9. MV Senopati Nusantara (Indonesia, December 30, 2006)

The Indonesian ferry sank due to a violent storm off Mandalika Island in the Java Sea. One survivor said that the ship rolled over before it submerged to the depths. Deaths were counted at 461.

10. KM Bismas Raya 2 (Indonesia, October 1999)

KM BIsmas Raya 2 caught fire while off Merauke, Irian Jaya. It eventually capsized and caused the death of 361 people.

For the World’s Worst Maritime Disasters for all time, Poland tops the list with the German liner Wilhelm Gustloff laden with refugees was torpedoed by a Soviet submarine in 1945. About 7,800 people were killed.

The Philippines’ MV Doña Paz disaster ranks 10th overall for the all-time list with about 4,375 people killed.

The Titanic is no longer in the list as it only have 1,517 people killed in 1912. Futrthermore it made me thinking about why a captain wants to go down with his ship. Also there I made a top 10 of reasons that I think is reasonable thinking for a captain. So here they come.

1.Customs and Traditions:

There are unwritten customs and traditions in the Navy which are followed by mariners since centuries. Some of them are hoisting Church Pennant, Dress ing the Ship, measurements by Fathom, giving Gun Salutes, Manning the Rails to give three cheers to honour the distinguished guests, Wardrobe Room. Captain preferring to sink with the ship is also one form of customs and traditions followed in the Navy. You may recollect on such occasions, that a pilot of the aircraft most of the times ejects, as there is no such custom and tradition to be followed.

2.Perform or Perish attitude:

The captain being the hard task master, when fails to perform with other words when he is not able to protect the ship and ships crew prefers to perish, which means he prefers to sink with the ship.

3.Moral responsibility:

Whatsoever may be the reason for the ship to sink, the captain doesn’t blame anyone till his last breath, but ensures that the ships crew is saved or rescued. He owes the moral responsibility for the mishap and prefers to sink with the ship. Such an act of owing moral responsibility is rarely seen in corporate bosses or head of an organisation.

4.Setting an example:

The captain being the No1 in the ship, has to be an example to others. He is the captain as long as the ship floats, but when the ship sinks he is no more a captain. Hence when the ship sinks he prefers to sink with the ship.

5.Mark of respect:

When the ship sinks, the captain sinks with the ship as an act of mark of respect to the ship he commanded.

6.Can’t live without his Lady Love:

The captain can not live without his Ladylove i.e. when his ship sinks. Ship is generally feminine. You may see my earlier post on this subject.

7.My ship and My command attitude:

The captain of a ship, functionally acts as a dictator. Because of this attitude, he feels he is right to sink with the ship when his command collapses.

8.An act of Sacrifice:

The captain feels guilty when the ship sinks and prefers to sink with the ship.

9.To be seen as a Hero or Martyr:

By sinking with the ship, the captain will always be seen as a hero or martyr. If he prefers to survive, he loses his name and fame and will have a miserable life.

10.Fear of prosecution:

If the captain prefers to survive, instead of sinking with the ship, definitely there will be Court-martial/prosecutions leading to disciplinary actions. In most of the cases the judgements will not be in his favour.

I hope I did not scare anyone away from going to sea, as I had some great years out there. Nature is doing what she wants with all of us. But if you see the sunset at sea you know why sailors fell in love with their job.

The Old Sailor,


  1. Anonymous14/7/11 14:08

    Nice blog Old Sailor. Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Anonymus, I hope that people read my blog and see it as a peace of mind, something to think and talk about. And of course for fun reasons.

    The Old Sailor,


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