The Capsizing Sequence of HERALD OF FREE ENTERPRISE

On March 6, 1987, the passenger ferry Herald of Free Enterprize capsized when leaving the port of Zeebruges, Belgium. The ship sailed with a significant forward trim as it was not designed for loading operations in Zeebruges port. At the time of the accident, the bow door of the ship was open. Due to the fast speed in shallow water the bow wave was high and the vessel dynamically trimmed bow down. Water accumulated on the vehicle deck until the stability of the ship vanished and she capsized after she floated with abt. 30 Deg. list for a while. When the list reached 95 Deg, she hit the sea bead in the shallow water and remained in that position. 186 lives were lost during the accident. The accident investigations indicated that the ship`s draft may have been larger as permitted for the number of people possibly carried on board. As a consequence of that accident, a trim must be included in the damage stability calculations if that trim is significant. Our simulation shows the capsizing of the ferry until she hits the sea bead at Zeebruges.


  • Souflis, L.: Untersuchung des Sinkvorganges der RoPax- Fähre Herald of Free Enterprize. Bachelor-Arbeit, TU Hamburg, 2017
  • Department of Transport, MV Herald of Free Enterprise, Report of Court 8074, London: Crown 1987