The MV Wilhem Gustloff
In all of the maritime recorded accidents and fatalities throughout history, this is by far the top of the charts maritime disaster, as it include the loss and deaths of thousands of people.
During the Nazi reign and wars this was used as a transportation ship, although the ship itself was said to have only been meant for humanitarian purposes.
It winded up having a multitude of Nazi officers and military personnel on it, and when it sailed out to the Baltic Sea it was struck with multiple torpedoes by the Prussian Red Army, sinking and killing everyone on-board; nearly 9,500 people total.
The Ferry Princess of the Stars
In 2008, nearly 800 people died when The Ferry Princess of the Stars, a monstrous ship, fell victim to Typhoon Fengshen, off the coast of San Fernando, Romblon, Philippines.
While local Filipinos immediately responded via emergency services and a swath of volunteers, saving many lives was quite impossible, as less than 60 of the passengers were spared.
This was both a very sad, and critical moment for world news, as well as the maritime industry and ideally brought redevelopment of technologies and strategy in maritime communications, sea-beacons, SOS signals, and emergency response to maritime disasters while at sea.
In 1915, while docked in the Chicago River, the SS Eastland tilted over and sank into the water, crashing and killing all 845 passengers and crew.
Emergency response efforts were delayed, citizen were unprepared, and likewise emergency response crews were incapable of reacting to such a large capacity human catastrophe, sadly.
While so many deaths were involved, the SS Eastland accident became a landmark case and example for more reliable, durable structural designs of ships, and emergency response, evacuation, and strategies in generally-especially for such a young era.
Commonly forgotten or unknown, the MS Estonia was a cruise-liner that got stuck and sank in heavy Baltic seas and storm conditions. Although being mid 90’s, Coast Guard and other emergency response personnel did not make it in time to intervene, and storm conditions prevented the majority efforts naturally.
The MS Estonia was an incredible, beautiful, and relatively modernized cruise-liner, and complications as well as procedures to date are still unknown, although standard theories and investigations yielded evidence demonstrating that as sturdy as she was built, such a ship was not well-equipped enough to withstand such heavy seas, battling, storms, and natural disaster.
While commonly unknown for its formal name, the RMS was built and believed to be the largest, strongest ship known to man. As engineers put it, they, as well as the general public, believed by all means that the Titanic was in fact ‘unsinkable’.
However, sadly, after crossing the Atlantic, en-route to New York City, the RMS Titanic averted, tapped, and ultimately struck a massive iceberg that lead to its sinking in the frigid, ice-cold, international (North Atlantic) waters, leaving over 1,500 people dead.
Lifeboats, emergency beacons, and other technology and rescue equipment failed the people dearly, ship-hands did not react properly, and the Captain as well as other crew failed to perform their due diligence in preparing, strategizing, and applying the most practical emergency-rescue and evacuation procedures possible on the RMS Titanic after it had struck the primary, final-hit iceberg.
The RMS Carpathia is responsible for evacuating and rescuing a multitude of ocean-bound evacuees of the RMS Titanic just hours after its final sinking and bow up dramatic, horrific ending.
MV Doña Paz
This massive Philippine passenger-ferry struck a super-gasoline transportation ship in the middle of the night, without adequate access to lifejackets and escape-boats, the MV Doña Paz caught on fire, and sank, killing most passengers by drowning.
Of the nearly 4,500 passengers and crew, many were subjected to jumping into ice-cold, uncharted international waters that happen to also be shark-infested. This, in combination with the gasoline spilling and lighting the water on fire conjointly, little passengers had any realistic opportunity of survival.
A German transport ship in the early 1940’s was traveling in the Baltic Sea during WWII and was struck by a Soviet submarine, leading to its sinking and the drowning, hypothermia induced-death of over 6,000 passengers—civilians. Additional undocumented citizens were on-board, and of the nearly 100 children, hardly 5 survived the catastrophe and wreckage.
MV Le Joola
A Senegalese-government owned ferry capsized off the coast during 2002 as it was overloaded to capacity, and after coming into the mouth of a storm failed quickly, sunk, and drown nearly 2,000 passengers. This is by far, maritime histories second-most large non-military related human catastrophe and level of casualties.
The history of mankind over the past 200 years has shown both great strife, but also lessons and development of more effective maritime rules, laws, expectations, and emergency-response reaction time, utilization, and further development.
Sadly, however, of course at the cost of thousands and thousands of both military and non-military related incidents, catastrophes, and life.