The MS al-Salam Boccaccio 98 was an Egyptian Ro/Ro passenger ferry, operated by El Salam Maritime Transport, that sank on 3 February 2006 in the Red Sea en route from Duba, Saudi Arabia, to Safaga in southern Egypt.
The ship was carrying about 1400 passengers and crew. The majority are thought to have been Egyptians working in Saudi Arabia, but they included pilgrims returning from the Hajj in Mecca. The ship was also carrying about 220 vehicles.
No Mayday had been heard from the ship and poor weather conditions hampered the search and rescue operation. 388 people were rescued.
The immediate cause of the sinking appears to have been a build-up of sea-water in the hull, when the fire-fighters were trying to extinguish a fire in the engine-room. This was compounded by design faults inherent in Ro/Ro vessels, where minor flooding of the deck can gain rapid momentum due to a mechanism known as the free surface effect.
When the captain asked permission to return to port, the ship’s owners ordered him to continue, despite knowing that there had been a fire. The owners were jailed in 2009 after their original acquittal was overturned.
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