Thirty years ago today, on 20 December 1987, the passenger ferry Doña Paz collided with the oil tanker Vector in the Philippines. Fire spread rapidly through the two ships and over the surrounding sea.

At the time of the incident, it was difficult to be certain how many people died, because the ferry was grossly overloaded – people travelling to Manila for Christmas had been sold extra tickets illegally.

However, in January 1999 a presidential task force concluded that the total number of lives lost was 4,386. Only 24 passengers from Doña Paz and two of Vector’s crew survived. To this day, it remains the worst maritime disaster to occur in peacetime.

On this tragic anniversary, the International Maritime Rescue Federation – whose members include maritime search and rescue practitioners from around the world – remembers all those who lost their lives in the disaster.

Domestic ferry safety, particularly in relation to overcrowding and a lack of adequate emergency response capability, continues to be an issue in many parts of the world. Domestic ferries are not covered by international regulation.

The IMRF exists primarily to help improve maritime search and rescue (SAR) capability around the globe, but we are also supportive of those who work to improve maritime safety overall, including on domestic ferry services.

There is still a long way to go. That is why the IMRF will continue to work with, and on behalf of, its members to improve maritime safety and maritime emergency response around the world.

You can read more about the IMRF’s global SAR development work across our website, www.international-maritime-rescue.org, and about our mass rescue operations project at www.imrfmro.org.

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