Sea ferries are integral to the transport network linking the hundreds of islands which make up the Philippines. Millions of Filipinos use the ferries throughout the year; with air travel beyond the means of most it would be hard to imagine life there without them.
A few days before Christmas 1987 the MV Dona Paz, a Japanese-built ferry rim by Sulpicio Lines, a Filipino ferry operator, set sail from the regional city of Tacloban on Leyte Island, bound for the capital, Manila. It was an overnight journey and most of the passengers were asleep when late in the evening the Dona Paz collided with the oil tanker Vector as it was passing through the Tablas Strait, a busy shipping lane separating the two major islands of Mindoro and Panay.
A mid-sea collision in deep, shark-infested waters was bad enough, but what made this particular impact far worse was the cargo which the Vector was transporting: more than 8,000 barrels of gasoline. The deadly freight exploded and the resulting blaze spread rapidly through the passenger ship. The Dona Paz was grossly overcrowded, a far from uncommon occurrence in the region; many illegal tickets were sold on board at the last minute so precise passenger numbers will never be known, but there could well have been at least three times the vessel’s authorized capacity of 1,500. Safety procedures were seriously deficient and would in any case have been of little use in such packed and chaotic conditions (it was claimed afterwards that the life-jacket cupboards had been locked). In an attempt to escape the inferno thousands leapt into the sea and drowned. Both vessels sank within hours.
When was the Doha Paz Ferry Collision: December 20 1987
Where was the Doha Paz Ferry Collision: Tablas Strait, Sibuyan Sea, Philippines
What was the Doha Paz Ferry Collision death toll: The official death toll was given as 1,749. It is generally agreed, however, that over 4,300 people died in the tragedy, making it the world’s worst peacetime maritime disaster.
You should know: It has never been established who was to blame for the collision. While there may have been only one junior crew member on the Dona Paz’s bridge at the time, it was also found that the vector had been operating with a license that had expired. As recently as July 2008 the oil company which had chartered the tanker was cleared by a Philippines court of any liability.