The MV Herald of Free Enterprise Capsized 30 Years Ago Today

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March 6, 2017

Photo credit: MAIB

Today, March 6, 2017, marks 30 years since the capsizing of car and passenger ferry Herald of Free Enterprise with loss of 193 people off the Belgian coast, which led to new international regulations and the formation of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB).

The roll-on/roll-off passenger ferry Herald of Free Enterprise, carrying 459 passengers and 80 crew, experienced flooding and subsequently capsized on March 6, 1987 immediately upon leaving the port of Zeebrugge for Dover with its bow door open.

To this day the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster marks the most fatal peacetime maritime disaster involving a British ship since the sinking of the Iolaire in 1919. In addition to the MAIB, the incident also led to fall of the red-hulled Townsend-Thoresen brand, succeeded by the P&O European Ferries, as well as the development of new regulations from the IMO concerning Ro-Ro design and safety.  

The Formal Investigation into the disaster was carried out by the Honorable Justice Sheen, Wreck Commissioner, on behalf of the by the Secretary of State for Transport. You can read the full investigation report here.

For more about how the ferry disaster led to the formation of the MAIB, check out the video below:


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