6 March 1987 Zeebrugge Ferry disaster


The car and passenger ferry (MS Herald of Free Enterprise) owned by Townsend Thoresen, had been designed for rapid loading and unloading and there were no watertight compartments. When the ship left harbour with her bow-door open, the sea immediately flooded the decks, and within minutes she was lying on her side in shallow water.

The cause of the sinking was found to be negligence by the assistant boatswain, asleep when it was his responsibility to ensure that the bow door was closed.

Although the vessel was salvaged and put up for sale, there were no buyers, and she ended her days in a scrapyard.

This incident caused the highest death-count of any peacetime maritime disaster involving a British ship since the sinking of the RMS Empress of Ireland in 1914.

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