MV Doña Paz

MV Doña Paz
Doña Paz at Tacloban.jpg
Doña Paz at Tacloban City, 1984
Name: Himeyuri Maru
Owner: Ryukyu Kaiun Kaisha
Port of registry:  Japan
Builder: Onomichi Zosen of Onomichi, Hiroshima Japan
Yard number: 118
Launched: 25 April 1963
Fate: Sold to Sulpicio Lines in 1975
Name: MV Don Sulpicio
Owner: Sulpicio Lines
Port of registry:  Philippines
Acquired: 1975
Renamed: MV Doña Paz in 1981
Refit: After a fire onboard 5 June 1979
Fate: Caught fire and sank after a collision with the MT Vector' on 20 December 1987.
General characteristics
Class and type: Passenger ferry
Tonnage: 2,602
1,192 (deadweight)
Length: 93.1 m (305 ft)
Beam: 13.6 m (45 ft)
Speed: 18 knots
Capacity: Passengers:
Crew: 66

The MV Doña Paz was a Philippine-registered passenger ferry that sank after colliding with the MT Vector on December 20, 1987. With a death toll of at most 4,375 people,[1] the collision resulted in the deadliest ferry disaster in history. It was traveling from Leyte island to Manila, the country's capital.[2]



The Doña Paz by was built in 1963 by Onomichi Zosen of Onomichi, Hiroshima, Japan, and was originally named Himeyuri Maru.[3] During the time it plied Japanese waters, it had a passenger capacity of 608 people.[4] In 1975, it was sold to Sulpicio Lines, a Filipino operator of a fleet of passenger ferries. It was renamed by Sulpicio Lines as the Don Sulpicio, and later, the Doña Paz.[4] One month before the accident, the vessel had undergone drydocking.[5] At the time of its sinking, the Doña Paz was plying the route of Manila/ Tacloban/ Catbalogan/ Manila/ Catbalogan/ Tacloban/ Manila, making trips twice a week.[6]


On December 20, 1987, at 0630H, Philippine Standard Time, the Doña Paz disembarked from Tacloban City, Leyte for the Philippine capital of Manila,[6][7] with a stopover at Catbalogan City, Samar.[5] The vessel was due in Manila at 0400H the following day, and it was reported that it last made radio contact at around 2000H.[7] However, subsequent reports indicated that the Doña Paz had no radio.[8][9] At around 2230H, Philippine Standard Time, the ferry was situated at Dumali Point, along the Tablas Strait, near Marinduque.[7] A survivor later said that the weather at sea that night was clear but the sea was choppy.[5] While most of the passengers slept, the Doña Paz collided with MT Vector, an oil tanker en route from Bataan to Masbate. The Vector was carrying 8,800 barrels of gasoline and other petroleum products owned by Caltex Philippines.[6]

Upon the collision, the Vector's cargo ignited and caused a fire that spread onto the Doña Paz. Survivors recalled sensing the crash and an explosion, causing panic on the vessel.[7] One of them, Paquito Osabel, recounted that the flames spread rapidly throughout the ship, and that the sea itself was on fire.[5][7] Another survivor claimed that the lights onboard had gone out, that there were no life vests on the Doña Paz, and that none of the crew was giving any orders.[5] It was later said that the life jacket lockers had been locked.[10] The survivors were forced to jump off the ship and swim among charred bodies.[11] The Doña Paz sank within two hours of the collision, while the Vector sank within four hours.[10] Both ships sank in about 545 meters of water in the shark-infested Tablas Strait.[12]

It reportedly took eight hours before Philippine maritime authorities learned of the accident, and another eight hours to organize search and rescue operations.[10]


Twenty-six survivors were retrieved from the seas. Twenty-four of them were passengers on the Doña Paz while the other two were crew members of the Vector.[5][13] None of the crew of the Doña Paz survived. Most of the survivors sustained burns from jumping into the flaming waters.[7]

According to the initial announcement made by Sulpicio Lines, the official passenger manifest of the Doña Paz recorded 1,493 passengers and 60 crew members aboard.[4][11] According to Sulpicio Lines, the ferry was able to carry 1,424 passengers.[7] A revised manifest released on December 23, 1987 showed 1,583 passengers and 58 crew members on the Doña Paz, with 675 persons boarding the ferry in Tacloban City while 908 coming on board in Catbalogan City.[12] However, an anonymous official of Sulpicio Lines told UPI that extra tickets were usually purchased illegally aboard the ship at a cheaper rate, and those passengers were not listed on the manifest.[4] The same official added that holders of complimentary tickets and non-paying children below the age of four were likewise not listed on the manifest.[4][14]

Survivors claimed that it was possible that the Doña Paz may have carried as many as 3,000 to 4,000 passengers.[4][11] They took as signs that the ferry was overcrowded the fact that passengers were sleeping along corridors or on cots with three or four persons on them.[11] Of the 21 bodies that had been identified five days after the accident, only one of the fatalities was listed on the official manifest.[15]

On December 28, 1987, Representative Raul Daza of Northern Samar claimed that at least 2,000 passengers on board the Doña Paz were not on the ship's manifest.[16] He based that figure on a list of names furnished by relatives and friends of missing people believed aboard the ferry; the names having been compiled by radio and television stations in Tacloban City.[16] The names of these 2,000+ missing passengers were published in pages 29 to 31 of the December 29, 1987 edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The eventual official death toll was later recorded at 1,749,[17] a figure which marked the accident as the deadliest ferry accident in history.[18] Nonetheless, it is generally accepted that the actual death toll was significantly greater.[17][18] The Philippine Supreme Court officially acknowledged in 1999 that the Dona Paz carried an estimated 4,000 passengers.[6] The 2008 edition of the World Almanac records the estimated lives lost at 4,341.[19] Time magazine called the accident the deadliest peace-time maritime disaster of the 20th century.[20] Given the estimated death toll, the sinking of the Doña Paz has been called the world's deadliest peacetime sea tragedy.[21][22][23][24]

Reactions and aftermath

Philippine President Corazon Aquino described the accident as "a national tragedy of harrowing proportions...[the Filipino people's] sadness is all the more painful because the tragedy struck with the approach of Christmas".[25] Pope John Paul II, Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita and Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom conveyed their official messages of condolence.[26]

Sulpicio Lines announced three days after the accident that the Doña Paz was insured for 25 million (about US$1 million in 2011 dollars), and it was willing to indemnify the survivors the amount of 20 thousand (US$472 in 2011) for each victim .[27] Days later, hundreds of family members of the victims staged a rally at the Rizal Park demanding that the ship owners likewise indemnify the families of those who were not listed on the manifest, as well as to give a full accounting of the missing.[14]

According to the initial investigation conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard, only one apprentice member of the crew of the Doña Paz was monitoring the bridge when the accident occurred.[28] Other officers were either drinking beer or watching television,[29] while the ship's captain was watching a movie on his Betamax.[28] Nonetheless, subsequent inquiries revealed that the Vector was operating without a license, lookout or properly qualified master.[10] The Board of Marine Inquiry eventually cleared Sulpicio Lines of fault in the accident.[13] In 1999, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled that it was the owners of the Vector who were liable to indemnify the victims of the collision.[6][13] Some of the claims pursued against either Sulpicio Lines or the owners of the Vector, such as those filed by the Cañezal family (who lost two members) and the Macasas family (who lost three members) were adjudicated by the Supreme Court, which found that even the families of victims who did not appear on the official manifest were entitled to indemnity.[6][13] Caltex Philippines, which had chartered the Vector, was likewise cleared of financial liability.[6]

In popular culture

The National Geographic Channel premiered a documentary on the MV Doña Paz entitled Asia's Titanic on August 25, 2009.[30][31]

See also

Portal icon Philippines portal
Portal icon Disasters portal
Portal icon Nautical portal


  1. ^ "Doña Paz".  Retrieved 2009-08-08
  2. ^ "MSNBC World News/Asia Pacific".  Retrieved 2009-08-08.
  3. ^ R.B.Haworth (2006). "Search results for "5415822"". Miramar Ship Index. Wellington, New Zealand. Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Omar Acosta, Dave Veridiano & Marlen Ronquillo (1987-12-23). "Doña Paz Overloaded; Inquiry Set". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Tanker Rams Ferry, 1,500 Feared Dead". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 1987-12-22. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Caltex Philippines v. Sulpicio Lines, 374 Phil. 325 (Supreme Court of the Philippines 1999-09-30).
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Associated Press (1987-12-21). "1,500 Are Feared Lost as Two Ships Collide and Sink Near Philippines". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  8. ^ John Lancaster, Engineering catastrophes: causes and effects of major accidents. Woodhead Publishing, 2005, 3rd. ed., p. 71.
  9. ^ DNV Annex 1 Passenger vessel Evacuation descriptions P36
  10. ^ a b c d Det Norske Veritas. "Annex 1: Passenger Vessel Evacuation Descriptions" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  11. ^ a b c d Sheila Coronel (1987-12-22). "Searchers Find No Trace of 1,500 From 2 Ships Sunk in Philippines". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  12. ^ a b Omar Acosta, Dave Veridiano, & Gerry Lirio (1987-12-24). "238 Bodies Washed Ashore in Mindoro". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 
  13. ^ a b c d Vector Shipping Corp. v. Macasa (Supreme Court of the Philippines 2008-07-21). Text
  14. ^ a b Associated Press (1987-12-27). "Bodies of 133 Found From Ferry Disaster, The Filipinos Report". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-14. 
  15. ^ "300 More Charred Victims Retrieved". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 1987-12-26. 
  16. ^ a b Ed Perpena & Dave Veridiano (1987-12-29). "2,000 On Ship Not On Manifest". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 
  17. ^ a b Seth Mydans (1988-10-26). "500 in Philippines Lost as Ship Sinks". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  18. ^ a b Stephen Kinzer (1994-09-29). "Little Hope for 800 Lost in Sinking of Baltic Sea Ferry". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  19. ^ The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2008: 140th Anniversary Edition. United States: World Almanac Education Group Inc.. 2008. pp. 301. ISBN 1-60057-072-0. 
  20. ^ Howard Chua Eo & Nelly Sindayen (1988-01-04). "The Philippines Off Mindoro, a Night to Remember". Time.,9171,966394,00.html. Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  21. ^ "200 Feared Dead as Ferry Sinks in Bangladesh". New York Times. 1994-08-21. Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  22. ^ "Hundreds Missing After Sinking Of Ferry in a Philippine Storm". New York Times. 1998-09-19. Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  23. ^ Francis Earl Cueto & AFP (2008-07-01). "Sulpicio blames Del Monte on toxic cargo on ‘Princess’". Manila Times. Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  24. ^ Leila Salaverria (2008-07-13). "Ships' 45 accidents listed: Lloyd's details Sulpicio's 28-year history". Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  25. ^ Barbara Crosette (1987-12-23). "It's Gloom And Glitter For Manila". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-24. 
  26. ^ Agence France Presse & Associated Press (1987-12-24). "Pope, Takeshita Send Condolences". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 
  27. ^ Agence France Presse (1987-12-23). "Sulpicio Willing to Pay Victims". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 
  28. ^ a b "Coast Guard Says: Dona Paz Officers Not at Their Posts". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 1987-12-25. 
  29. ^ Associated Press (1987-12-25). "Officers Were Not at Posts, Ship Disaster Survivor Says". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-14. 
  30. ^ "Davao boy’s Titanic debuts today". Mindanao Times. 2009-08-25. Retrieved 2009-09-06. 
  31. ^ "Asia's Titanic". Retrieved 2009-09-06. 

External links

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