MS Herald of Free Enterprise Panorama, Belgium

MS Herald of Free Enterprise was a roll-on/roll-off (RORO) ferry which capsized moments after leaving the Belgian port of Zeebrugge on the night of 6 March 1987, killing 193 passengers and crew.

The eight-deck car and passenger ferry, owned by Townsend Thoresen, had been designed for rapid loading and unloading on the competitive cross-channel route, 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. Although the immediate cause of the sinking was found to be negligence by the assistant boatswain, who was asleep in his cabin when he should have been closing the bow-door, the official inquiry placed more blame on his supervisors and a general culture of poor communication in Townsend Thoresen. The vessel was salvaged and put up for sale, and on 30 September 1987, was sold to Naviera SA Kingstown, and was renamed Flushing Range. On 22 March 1988 the vessel was taken to Taiwan to be dismantled.

Since the disaster, improvements have been made to the design of RORO vessels, with watertight ramps, indicators showing the position of the bow-doors, and the banning of undivided decks.

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