Cruise Ship Safety - Sunken Ships

Why ships sink?  Something to ponder before you cruise. Know before you go.

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A List of Sunken Ships from 1980 - 2001

The World Discoverer (2001)
SS Seabreeze (2000)
S.V. Sir Francis Drake (1999)
Sun Vista (1999)
Fantome (1998)
Club Royale (1995)
Achille Lauro (1994)
Sally Albatross (1994)
Royal Pacific (1992)
Oceanos (1991)
Jupiter (1988)
MS Herald of Free Enterprise (1987)
SS Admiral Nakimov (1986)
MS Mikhail Lermontov (1986)
Sundancer (1984)
Prinsendam (1980)

A list of sunken ships 2002 - Current

Ship Prefix Index

FV = fishing vessel
MS = motor ship
MV = motor vessel
RMS = royal mail ship
RV = research vessel
SS = steam ship
SV = sailing vessel

Watch the NOVA Video
Why Ships Sink
-- at:


The World Discoverer

On April 30, 2000 at 4:00 pm local time (0500 GMT) the ship struck a large uncharted rock or reef on the Sandfly Passage, Solomon Islands. A passenger ferry was dispatched to the ship where all passenger were then transported to safety. The captain then brought the ship into Roderick Bay after the ship began to list 20 degrees and grounded the ship to avoid sinking. After underwater surveying of the ship, the World Discoverer was declared a "Constructive Loss". The ship has remained in Roderick Bay ever since. There are no reports of any oil or petroleum or other pollutant spills were reported as a result of the impact.

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SS SeaBreeze (Premier)

The ship sank off the coast of NC/Virginia in 30 foot seas with no passengers aboard. No fatalities.

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S.V. Sir Francis Drake (Tall ship Adventures)

The ship sank during a hurricane while moored.

Sun Vista (Sun Cruises)

The ship suffered an engine room fire while sailing the Strait of Malacca (May 20). An electrical spark ignited a fire in the engine room and the fire could not be contained. All passengers and crew were evacuated from the ship and eventually rescued by a passing freighter hours later.  Read the full story at

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Fantome image courtesy of Bob May Fantome image courtesy of Bob May

Fantome (Windjammer)

The s/v Fantome, a four-masted schooner operated by Windjammer sank while trying to outrun Hurricane Mitch off the coast of Honduras (Oct 1998). All 31 crew members aboard perished; passengers and other crew members had earlier been offloaded in Belize. The story was recorded in the book, The Ship and The Storm by Jim Carrier (ISBN 0-07-135526-X ). The ship, which was sailing in the center of the hurricane, experienced up to 50-foot (15 m) waves and over 100 mph (160 km/h) winds, causing the Fantome to founder off the coast of Honduras.

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Club Royale

The gambling ship left the Port of Palm Beach, FL and headed to Port Canaveral, attempting to find safe harbor and outrun Hurricane Erin. Due to high winds near the coast, the Captain turned the ship out to sea rather than north toward Port Canaveral. The ship began to take on water and listed badly. The Coast Guard never received a distress call but was instead alerted by the Emergency Distress Position Indicating Beacon just before the ship sank. The Coast Guard sent rescue personnel and found 7 survivors in a life raft.  All were rescued safely. An eighth member of the eleven member crew was rescued by a passing merchant vessel, a few miles away from a life raft. The captain and two crew members were never found.

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Achille Lauro (MSC Starlauro)

The Achille Lauro was converted to a cruise ship in early 1972, during which time she suffered a disastrous fire. Another onboard fire in 1981 took her out of service for a time. She was laid up in Tenerife when the Lauro Lines went bankrupt in 1982. Reflagged in 1987 when the Lauro Line was taken over by the Mediterranean Shipping Company. On November 30, 1994, she caught fire off the coast of Somalia while enroute to South Africa. Abandoned, the vessel sank on December 2 in the Indian Ocean.  4 died and 8 injured.

Sally Albatross

Grounded in Gulf of Finland and the ship sank half-way before being moved.

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Royal Pacific

The Greek owned vessel sank in the early morning hours after a collision with a fishing vessel while sailing the Straits of Mallacca (Aug 23). The ship sank two hours after being rammed. 530 aboard - 30 died and 70 were injured.

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Oceanos (Epirotiki Lines)

Oceanos Cruise Ship 1991
Oceanos Cruise Ship 1991  Photo Credit: ABC News

On 3 August 1991, the Oceanos set out from East London, South Africa, headed to Durban. It headed into 40-knot winds and 9 m (30 ft) swells. Usually there would have been a "sail-away" party on deck with musicians and entertainers Moss Hills and Tracy Hills. However, due to the rough sea conditions, this was held inside in the Four Seasons lounge. Although Moss and Tracy and other members of the ship's entertainment crew did their best to get a party atmosphere going, most passengers chose to stay in their cabins. The storm worsened as the evening progressed - eventually the ship was rolling about from side to side so badly that crockery and cutlery began sliding off the tables and potted plants were falling over.

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Jupiter (Epirotiki Lines)

The Jupiter had just set sail on an educational cruise, loaded with teen-age kids. A collision with a car ferry at the entrance to Piraeus caused the ship to sink (Oct). 4 fatalities. Read MJ's blog (one of the teen-age victims) about the accident.

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MS Herald of Free Enterprise (Townsend-Thoresen)

RORO car and passenger ferry

On March 6, 1987, the Ferry departed from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge bound for Dover on March 6, 1987. The ferry loaded with 459 passengers, 80 crew and 131 vehicles suddenly capsized and sank under five minutes later. The ferry had lost stability and rolled over to port in shallow water. The water had rushed in as the watertight door in the bow was open allowing water to rush down the length of the vessel. The water quickly flooded the vessel disabling the electrical systems. Passengers and crew trapped inside were thrown into darkness in frigid water. A nearby dredger saw the lights of the ferry disappeared and contacted the authorities. The Belgian Navy was nearby and soon rescue helicopters were on the scene. While many were rescued, many perished due to hypothermia before they could be rescued. When search and rescue efforts ended, there were 193 people who perished on board the vessel. Source:

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SS Admiral Nakimov (Black Sea Shipping Co)


The ship collides with a cargo vessel and sinks in the Black Sea eight miles from Novorossysk.  Seventy-nine people are killed, 836 rescued, 319 never found. Russian website chronicles tradegy.

MS Mikhail Lermontov (Baltic Shipping Co.)


Sinks in 100 feet of water off New Zealand’s South Island after hitting a reef.  One crew member died.

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Sundancer (Sundance Cruises)

On her third cruise to the US/Canadian west coast, the ship was declared a total constructive loss after hitting rocks off Maud island north of Vancouver. The ship sank (partially submerged) and was evacuated with no loss of life, though lifeboats were useless, and there was considerable confusion and terror.  Human error is blamed for the accident. According to Canadian investigators, following the grounding the ship anchored in Menzies Bay (16 km north of Campbell River) to assess damage.  With uncontrollable flooding below decks, it headed back to open sea, limping an hour later -- at 1 AM -- into Duncan Bay (8 km south) where passengers were evacuated.  Crew were disorganized and evacuation was largely coordinated by passengers themselves.

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Prinsendam (Holland America Line)

The Prinsendam was traveling the Gulf of Alaska about 140 miles from the Alaska coast near Yakutat, Alaska on Oct 4, 1980. At approximately 1:00 a.m. local time, a fire broke out in the engine room and the Captain declared the fire out of control about an hour later. Passengers were disembarked to life boats at approximately  6:00 a.m.  A nearby supertanker, Williamsburgh, arrived at approximately 7:45 a.m. and assisted with the rescue of passengers and crew from life boats.  A United States Coast Guard ship arrived in the mid-afternoon to transfer those who needed immediate medical treatment to an Alaskan hospital. Later in the evening the Coast Guard Cutter, Mellon arrived and dispatched a team to provide medical assistance onboard the Williamsburgh. No deaths or serious injuries reported and all passengers and crew from the Prinsendam accounted for.  The Prinsendam capsized and sank on October 11, 1980.

Mathieu J. Oosterwijk - 2nd Officer PRINSENDAM 1980, currently residing in Scotland, UK, helped contribute to the above narrative.


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A list of sunken ships 2002 - Current


Related Links:

Weather Updates
Travel Warnings
Safety Overview
Cruise Ship Fires
Sunken Passenger Ships
Sudden Lists/Rogue Waves
Unclassified Incidents
Incidents 2012
Incidents 2013
Incidents 2014
Incidents 2015

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