On August 24, 1999, the 230 meter long, 6731 dwt passenger cruise ship Norwegian Dream collided with the 294 meter long, 55527 dwt container ship Ever Decent in the English Channel. Around 1:15 a.m., the Norwegian Dream was en route to Dover, England from Zeebrugge, Belgium with 2,400 passengers when it struck the Ever Decent four miles southeast of the Falls Head Buoy. Passengers awoke hearing a loud bang and cruise ship shaking violently.
Frighten the passengers were mustered up on deck and told to put on life jackets. The crew inspected the vessel for damage and found a large section of the bow was crushed or had been torn away. On the deck the crew found 5 containers from the Ever Decent on the cruise ship’s deck. The containers held cyanide, but luckily they did not rupture. While severely damaged, the Norwegian Dream remained afloat and was able to reach Dover under its own power. Some 21 passengers suffered minor injuries.
The Ever Decent had sustained heavy damage from the collision. Several containers carrying paint on board had caught fire and multiple ballast tanks had been ruptured causing the vessel to develop a 40 degree list. Fire fighting tugs, RNLI lifeboats and Coast Guard vessels were later able to extinguish the blaze, but it required efforts from Dutch and UK fire fighters efforts over several days. Later, the disabled container ship was towed to Zeebrugge.
Both vessels were later repaired and went back into service.
On May 31, 1931 the passenger steamship Harvard went aground off Point Arguello, California. The Harvard was running its regular schedule between San Francisco and Los Angeles with 500 passengers when it went hard aground during the night in heavy fog. The sea was calm and there was no panic among the passengers. The Harvard’s lifeboats were lowered and stood by until a passing freighter arrived on scene. The passengers would later be transferred to the U.S. Navy cruiser U.S.S. Louisville which had been at anchor at Los Angeles harbor. The Harvard broke up and became a total loss before it could be refloated. The 3700 ton Harvard was launched in 1907 at Chester, Pennsylvania. The vessel served a short time in World War I as a troopship before going back into service as a passenger steamship.
The 132 meter long ro-roferryHerald of Free Enterprise departed from 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.
The Herald of Free Enterprise was salvaged in April 1987 and taken to Flushing. The vessel was sold for scrap and towed to Taiwan in 1988.
The cause of the sinking was investigated and revealed several causes that lead to the sinking.
The Master of the vessel was unable to see if the bow doors were closed from the bridge (due to the ship’s design) and there was no indicator light
The assistant boatswain who is responsible for closing the door was asleep at his bunk at the time of the accident
The first mate had left the deck early to go to the bridge assuming the assistant boatswain would close the doors
The last crewman who saw the doors open did not close the door before the vessel left
The vessel’s speed in shallow water increased the flooding into the vessel
The vessel’s ballast tanks in the bow resulted in an irregular trim