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Marking 30 years of the world's worst peacetime maritime disaster - the Dona Paz

Marking 30 years of the world's worst peacetime maritime disaster - the Dona Paz
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the deadliest maritime disaster in peacetime – the sinking the ferry Dona Paz in the Philippines on 20th December 1987.

The 1963-built Dona Paz collided with the tanker Vector on a voyage from Leyte Island to Manila leaving an estimated 4,386 people dead, and just 24 survivors. A press release from the Sailors’ Society referred to it as “Asia’s Titanic” and while the sinking of the ocean liner is much better known story globally, the Dona Paz was a far greater tragedy with nearly three times as many deaths.

The Dona Paz, operated by Sulpicio Lines, had an official capacity 1,518 passengers and 66 crew, but was vastly overloaded with thousands of unregistered passengers. Originally a passenger ferry in Japanese waters the vessel had operated with a capacity of just 608 passengers.

Many of the 4,386 who estimated died were burnt alive following the collision with the oil tanker.

Chaplains from the Sailors’ Society marked the 30th anniversary of the tragedy with a wreath laying.

Sailors’ Society’s port chaplain in Manila, Rev Nic Tuban, who laid the wreath with his colleague Rev Jasper del Rosario, remembers the tragedy well.

“People in Manila were excited to celebrate Christmas but instead mourned. 

 “They waited at the city’s North Harbour, hoping that their loved ones were still alive.

 “So many never saw their loved ones again.”

It took the families of passengers lost in the tragedy nearly 30 years to get compensation which was paid in March this year.

Passenger ferry safety in the Philippines has remained a serious issue. In 2008 the owners of the Dona Paz, Sulpicio Lines, were involved in another major tragedy when the Princess of the Stars capsized in a typhoon.

Of 862 passengers officially recorded to be on the vessel just 56 survived.

Domestic ferry transport is not regulated by the IMO, however, it is an issue the organisation has highlighted in the past.