maritime disasters

Maritime 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, which led to loss of life. Sadly most of the loss of life in recent times has been due to overcrowding on migrant vessels which are not included on this list.

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WhenCauseShip(s) Involved in Greatest Ship DisastersVictims
492 BCStorm.Ships of the Persian fleet.20,000
255 BCStorm.300 ships of the Roman fleet.100,000+
1281Typhoon.Mongolian/Korean fleet.70,000
1588War, storm.40 ships of the Spanish Armada.13,000
November 1811Storm.British convoy.2,000+
January 1822Hit a reef.Chinese junk Tek Sing.1,600+
27 April 1865Explosion.Paddle steamer on the Mississippi.1,700
15 June 1904Fire.Steamer General Slocum.1,021
14 April 1912Iceberg contact.RMS Titanic on its maiden voyage.1,502
22 September 1912Typhoon.Japanese steamer Kiche Maru.1,000
29 May 1914Collision.RMS Empress of Ireland.1,012
7 May 1915Torpedo (U20).Lusitania passenger ship en route from New York to Liverpool.1,198
06 December 1917Collision.Munitions ship Mont Blanc.1,635
18 March 1921Rebellion.Passenger ship Kong Moh.1,000+
27 March 1943Accident, explosion.British aircraft carrier HMS Dasher (D37).379
08 June 1943Explosion.Japanese battleship Mutsu.1,121
26 December 1943Naval 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 1944Fire / explosion.Cargo steamer Fort Stikine.1,500~
16 April 1945Torpedo.In the Baltic, the German cargo and evacuation ship Goya was sunk by a Soviet submarine.7,000+
25 June 1944Torpedo.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 board8,000~
29 June 1944Torpedo.The Japanese troop carrier Toyama Maru was sunk off Okinawa by a US submarine.5,400~
22 September 1944Torpedo.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 1944Torpedo.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 1944Torpedo.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 1945Torpedo.Passenger ship Wilhelm Gustloff torpedoed by a Russian submarine. It’s one of the worst ship disasters while wartime.9,000+
10 February 1945Torpedo.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 1945Air-raid.Aircraft carrier USS Franklin aka “Big Ben” was crippled by a Japanese air attack.
3 May 1945Air-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 1945Kamikaze.Aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) was crippled by Japanese kamikaze attacks.389~
16 April 1947Explosions.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 1948Mine.Danish steamer Kjöbenhaven.140
17 September 1949Fire.Steamer Noronic in Toronto.130
31 January 1953Flood disaster.Princess Victoria ferry and at least 10 other ships.240~
26 September 1954Heavy seas.Japanese train ferry Toya Maru.1,150
29 October 1955Explosion.Battleship Noworossik.608
25 July 1956Collision.Italian Andrea Doria sinks off New York.50
21 September 1957Storm.German sailing training ship Pamir sinks.80
10 April 1963Flooding.The US nuclear submarine USS Thresher (SSN-593) sank during diving tests, all hands died.129
29 July 1967Fire.Aircraft carrier USS Forrestal.134
2 May 1982Torpedo.The Argentinian light cruiser General Belgrano was sunk by British submarine Conqueror during the Falklands war.323
31 August 1986Collision.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 1987Collision / explosion.Philippine ferry Dona Paz.4,386
17 February 1993Overloading.Haitian ferry Neptune.1,000+
28 September 1994Flooding.Estonian ferry Estonia.854
21 May 1996Overloading.Lake Victoria ferry Bukoba.800
05 August 2000Explosion.Russian nuclear submarine K-141 Kursk.118
26 September 2002Storm / overloading.Senegalese ferry Joola off the coast of Gambia.1,864
8 July 2003Sank.Bangladeshi passenger ferry Nazreen-1  sank on the Meghna River.530
03 February 2006Fire / storm.Egyptian roll on/roll off passenger ferry Al-Salam Boccaccio 98  sank in the Red Sea following a fire.1,026
21 June 2008Typhoon.Philippine ferry Princess of Stars.800
13 January 2012Rock contact.Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground, capsized and sank because the captain choose an unsuitable course.32
 1 June 2015Tornado waterspout.Chinese river cruise ship Eastern Star capsized at night after being hit by a tornado waterspout on the Yangtze river.442

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