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 was owned by Townsend Thoresen, designed for rapid loading and unloading on the competitive cross-channel route, and there were no watertight compartments. The ship left harbour with her bow-door open, and the sea immediately flooded the decks; within minutes, she was lying on her side in shallow water. 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. However, the official inquiry placed more blame on his supervisors and a general culture of poor communication in Townsend Thoresen. The vessel was salvaged, put up for sale, and sold to Naviera SA Kingstown on 30 September 1987, renamed Flushing Range. It was taken to Taiwan on 22 March 1988 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 banning of undivided decks.

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