South Korea learns hard lessons from ferry accident.
This serves as a dire reminder that the sea is relentless and unforgiving. While human ingenuity and technology have long strived to tame the world’s most abundant and unpredictable environment, history has shown that no seafarer is immune to Mother Nature.
Less than 30 years ago, the ferry Doña Paz collided with an oil tanker near the Philippines, killing more than 4,000 people — the worst peacetime maritime disaster in history. The loss of the Sewol marks the 100th passenger vessel lost since 2002, with 15 of these tragedies alone killing approximately 6,000 people.
The United States is home to nearly 200 large passenger vessels , ranging from ferries like the Sewol, to excursion and casino boats, plus another 5,000 small passenger vessels. Collectively, they transport a staggering 200 million passengers per year.
But despite this massive volume of maritime travelers, the number of passenger fatalities per year related to vessel operations is often in the single digits.
Why has the United States been relatively insulated from events like the Sewol tragedy? Is it good — or just lucky?
Luck, for lack of a better term, will always be a factor. You cannot regulate or engineer away all the risks of operating on open water. And human factors can always play a prevalent role in maritime mishaps. As long as man challenges the sea, accidents will happen.
But while history’s pages indeed contain sad tales of vessels like the Sewoland the Doña Paz, there must also be a chapter on how deliberate, collaborative efforts have reduced risk, creating a safer sea through measured prevention.
In fact, it is only due to a…