Coastal Fisheries Programme
Number 6 - March 2011

pdf: 1.8 MB

Group Co-ordinator and Bulletin Editor: Steve Beverly, Fisheries Consultant.

Prepared by the Nearshore Fisheries Development and Information Sections of the Marine Resources Division and printed with financial assistance from France.


2009 was a bad year for ferries – in the Pacific and elsewhere

On the night of 14 April 1912 the largest luxury ship of its time, the unsinkable RMS Titanic, struck an iceberg in the north Atlantic and began sinking. By the following day the Titanic had sunk, leaving only 705 survivors out of a total of 2,228 passengers and crew who sailed on the maiden voyage. Many people believe that this was the worst ever peacetime sea tragedy. Unfortunately, it was not.That distinction belongs to a more recent event – the collision, fire, and subsequent sinking of the Philippine registered ferry, M/V Doña Paz. On 20 December 1987 the Manila-based Doña Paz was making one of her twice weekly trips when she collided with an oil tanker, M/T Vector. The collision caused a fire on Vector that quickly spread to Doña Paz, and both vessels eventually sank. Only twenty-six people, twenty-four passengers of Doña Paz and two of the crew of Vector, survived. The passenger manifest of Doña Paz showed 1,583 passengers. However, many passengers were not listed. Incredibly, the number of unlisted passengers on Doña Paz totaled more than 2,000 people. Estimates of how many really died as a result of Doña Paz’s sinking range from 3,000 to 4,375. Even more incredibly, ferry disasters are not rare events. Ferries, especially roll-on roll-off (RoRo) ferries are one of the most common and, at the same time, one of the most dangerous ways to travel.

RoRo ferries are inherently un-seaworthy in rough weather because they take on water quickly through the bow and stern doors, and capsize. This is especially true in developing countries where ferries are often over-loaded with cargo and passengers; are insufficiently equipped with life saving devices and appliances; where regulations are often overlooked and many un-ticketed passengers are allowed to board ferries making them top heavy and unstable; and where ferries are often poorly maintained. However, even in developed countries ferries can be unsafe in bad weather or in the event of a collision, crew error, or faulty equipment. Before embarking on a sea-going ferry, passengers would be well advised to check the weather forecast and to check whether or not the ferry has sufficient numbers of life jackets and life rafts for all onboard. If in doubt, don’t go. The feature article in this issue of the Sea Safety Bulletin discusses two ferry disasters that struck close to home in 2009.

Steve Beverly



Feature article

  • Ferry disasters

Technology and safety

  • New man overboard system developed in the United Kingdom
  • Stormline's new flotation bib
  • Rescue laser flare

Resource materials

  • Basic boating safety in Papua New Guinea waters
  • Outboard engine fuel consumption card
  • New safety guide for small fishing boats
  • Other useful publications from BOBP and FAO

Accidents and incidents

  • Fatal accident in Atafu, Tokelau - February 2010
  • Vanuatu, Tonga, and Tokelau: a series of accidents at sea
  • Four people recovered after one week adrift
  • French citizens rescued in Tonga
  • Three Tokelauan boys still alive after 48 days lost at sea
  • Hope is fading for 17 missing fishermen after a South Korean trawler sank in the Southern Ocean, claiming at least five other lives

Download the complete publication:

Sea Safety #6 (pdf: 1.8 MB)



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