maritime disasters

Maritime Ship Disasters

Maritime Ship Disasters All-Time List

This list focuses on maritime ship disasters which were caused by extreme weather events and/or caused by war or human error, leading to loss of life. Sadly the majority of deaths at sea in recent times have occurred as a result of overcrowding on many small vessels, often unnamed and unregistered, carrying migrants so they do not appear on this list.

  • ADDucation’s list of maritime ship disasters was compiled by Robert Junker and last updated on Jan 16, 2023 @ 3:45 pm

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When Cause Ship/s Involved in Greatest Ship Disasters Victims
492 BC Storm Ships of the Persian fleet. 20,000
255 BC Storm 300 ships of the Roman fleet. One the worst ship disasters in history. 100,000+
1281 Typhoon Mongolian/Korean fleet. 70,000
1588 War, storm 40 ships of the Spanish Armada. 13,000
November 1811 Storm British convoy. 2,000+
January 1822 Hit a reef Chinese junk Tek Sing. 1,600+
27 April 1865 Explosion Paddle steamer on the Mississippi. 1,700
15 June 1904 Fire Steamer General Slocum. 1,021
14 April 1912 Iceberg contact RMS Titanic on its maiden voyage. 1,502
22 September 1912 Typhoon Japanese steamer Kiche Maru. 1,000
29 May 1914 Collision RMS Empress of Ireland.
7 May 1915 Torpedo (U20) Lusitania passenger ship en route from New York to Liverpool. 1,198
06 December 1917 Collision Munitions ship Mont Blanc. One of the worst ship disasters from a collision. 1,635
18 March 1921 Rebellion Passenger ship Kong Moh. 1,000+
27 March 1943 Accident, explosion British aircraft carrier HMS Dasher (D37). 379
08 June 1943 Explosion Japanese battleship Mutsu. 1,121
26 December 1943 Naval battle The German warship Scharnhorst was attacked in the Arctic Ocean by the British battleship “Duke of York” and sunk. Only 32 survivors were pulled from the icy water. 1,930+
14 April 1944 Fire / explosion Cargo steamer Fort Stikine. 1,500~
16 April 1945 Torpedo In the Baltic, the German cargo and evacuation ship Goya was sunk by a Soviet submarine. 7,000+
25 June 1944 Torpedo The US submarine “Rasher” was cruising near Lombok (Indonesia). It first sank the Tango Maru carrying forced laborers and prisoners of war (ca. 3000 dead), and, shortly after, the Japanese troop carrier Ryusei Maru with almost 5000 soldiers on board 8,000~
29 June 1944 Torpedo The Japanese troop carrier Toyama Maru was sunk off Okinawa by a US submarine. 5,400~
22 September 1944 Torpedo Particularly tragic was the sinking of the Japanese freighter Tsushima Maru. On board were civilians and over 740 school children, of whom only 59 survived. 1,529
18 September 1944 Torpedo The Japanese cargo and prison ship Junyo Maru was torpedoed by a British submarine off the coast of Sumatra. It sank with more than 6000 prisoners on board including nearly 1400 Dutch. 5,620~
24 October 1944 Torpedo The sinking of the Japanese transport ship Arisan Maru by a US submarine was also a grave mistake. On board were almost 1800 US prisoners, of whom only 8 survived. 1,890~
30 January 1945 Torpedo Passenger ship Wilhelm Gustloff torpedoed by a Russian submarine. One of the worst ship disasters during wartime. 9,000+
10 February 1945 Torpedo The hospital ship Steuben was carrying mostly wounded and refugees when it was torpedoed and sunk shortly after midnight in the Baltic Sea by a Soviet submarine. 4,000~
19 March 1945 Air-raid Aircraft carrier USS Franklin aka “Big Ben” was crippled by a Japanese air attack.
3 May 1945 Air-raid The luxury ship Cap Arcona was sunk four days before the war ended by British fighter pilots in the Bay of Lübeck. 8,000~
11 May 1945 Kamikaze Aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) was crippled by Japanese kamikaze attacks. 389~
16 April 1947 Explosions Three ships were involved in the “Texas city disaster” The SS Grandcamp‘s cargo of ammonium nitrate exploded igniting ammonium nitrate in the SS High Flyer which demolished the SS Wilson B. Keene. 568~
11 June 1948 Mine Danish steamer Kjöbenhaven. 140
17 September 1949 Fire Steamer Noronic in Toronto. 130
31 January 1953 Flood disaster Princess Victoria ferry and at least 10 other ships. 240~
26 September 1954 Heavy seas Japanese train ferry Toya Maru. 1,150
29 October 1955 Explosion Battleship Noworossik. 608
25 July 1956 Collision Italian Andrea Doria sinks off New York. 50
21 September 1957 Storm German sailing training ship Pamir sinks. 80
10 April 1963 Flooding The US nuclear submarine USS Thresher (SSN-593) sank during diving tests, all hands died. 129
29 July 1967 Fire Aircraft carrier USS Forrestal. 134
2 May 1982 Torpedo The Argentinian light cruiser General Belgrano was sunk by British submarine Conqueror during the Falklands war. 323
31 August 1986 Collision Cruise ship SS Admiral Nakhimov. 423
6 March 1987 Storm The English Channel ferry Herold of Free Enterprise capsized off Zeebrugge, Belgium. 200~
20 December 1987 Collision / explosion Philippine ferry Dona Paz. One of the worst of all ferry ship disasters. 4,386
17 February 1993 Overloading Haitian ferry Neptune. 1,000+
28 September 1994 Flooding Estonian ferry Estonia. 854
21 May 1996 Overloading Lake Victoria ferry Bukoba. 800
05 August 2000 Explosion Russian nuclear submarine K-141 Kursk. 118
26 September 2002 Storm / overloading Senegalese government owned ferry Le Joola capsized off the coast of Gambia in rough seas with just 64 survivors 1,864
8 July 2003 Sank Bangladeshi passenger ferry Nazreen-1  sank on the Meghna River. 530
03 February 2006 Fire / storm Egyptian roll on/roll off passenger ferry Al-Salam Boccaccio 98  sank in the Red Sea following a fire. 1,026
21 June 2008 Typhoon Fengshen Philippine ferry Princess of Stars capsized off the coast of San Fernando with 57 survivors.
13 January 2012 Rock contact Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground, capsized and sank because the captain choose an unsuitable course. 32
1 June 2015 Tornado waterspout Chinese river cruise ship Eastern Star capsized at night after being hit by a tornado waterspout on the Yangtze river. 442
20 September 2018 Capsized due to overloading Tanazinan ferry MV Nyerere capsized in lake Victoria. The ferry capacity was 100 people and with 228 deaths and 41 people rescued it was certainly overloaded. 228

See also: List of Major Air Tradgedies…

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