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Herald Of Free Enterprise




Herald-of-free-enterprise2-thumb TheHeraldofFreeEnterprise-THUMB Herald-of-free-enterprise-salvage-THUMB



The Herald of free enterprise was a roll on roll off car ferry which set sail from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge on 6 March 1987 with her bow doors open allowing water to flood the ship the vessel soon capsized resulting in the deaths of 193 passengers and crew.

The ferry was built in Germany and launched in1979 the vessel was delivered to her owners Townsend Thoresen in May 1980, Herald of free enterprise weighed in 13,601 tonnes and was 432 feet in length, she had the capacity to carry 1,326 passengers and 350 cars, the roll on roll off ferry had two identical sister ships the pride of free enterprise and the spirit of free enterprise. Herald of free enterprise commenced service between Dover and Calais on May 29, 1980; she also ran a service between Dover and Zeebrugge which started in September 1983 this continued until 1985 when the ship was refitted, In November 1986 Herald of free enterprise was briefly moved back to the Dover- Calais route then early in 1987 she was switched back to the Dover to Zeebrugge service.

Herald of free enterprise set sail 18.05 GMT from the port of Zeebrugge on March 6, 1987 carrying 459 passengers, 80 crew, and vehicles comprising of 47 lorries, three buses, and 81 cars, due to mistakes by several crew members including the captain the ship set sail with her bow doors still open allowing seawater to enter the car decks the vessel soon became unstable and capsized around 18.28 water soon found its way into the ferries electrical systems causing her to lose all power and leaving the ship in total darkness the ship did not completely sink as it was in shallow waters approximately 1 km from the shore she ended up on her side half submerged on a sandbar, despite rescue attempts the disaster resulted in the deaths of 193 people most of who succumbed to hypothermia because of the cold water.

In October 1987 an inquest returned verdicts of unlawful killing against seven individuals and they were charged with gross negligence and manslaughter, the ship's owners were also charged with corporate manslaughter but this was later dropped, around the same time of the inquest a salvage operation was underway to refloat the ship this was successful and the remaining bodies trapped inside were removed.

After raising the ferry it was assumed that she could be repaired and continue sailing, the ship was renamed flushing range however a buyer could not be found and she was eventually scrapped in 1988, the ship's owners Townsend Thoresen was subsequently rebranded to P&O European ferries because of all the bad press they had received from the disaster, the company merged with stena line in 1999 to make P&O stena line.



Video's  of  The Herald Of Free Enterprise Including News report about the Disaster and Salvaging The Ship





 Ship Specifications


  • Size: Small
  • Type :R.O.R.O Ferry
  • Length: 432 feet
  • Beam: 76 feet
  • Tonnage: 13,601
  • Speed: 22 knots
  • Crew: 74
  • Current status: Re-floated 1987, Scrapped in 1988

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