MS Jan Heweliusz was a Polish ferry named after astronomer Johannes Hevelius (Polish: Jan Heweliusz) that served on the route Ystad-Świnoujście.
In the early hours of January 14th 1993 it capsized and sank in 27 metres of water off Cape Arcona on the coast of Rügen in the Baltic Sea while sailing toward Ystad with 64 passengers and crew.
The accident claimed the lives of 20 crewmen and 35 passengers. 10 bodies were never found. 9 people were rescued.
The sinking of Jan Heweliusz is the most deadly peacetime maritime disaster involving a Polish ship.
At 4:10 am on Jan 14 1993, the ship started listing in hurricane-force winds, estimated at 180 km/h. It capsized at 5:12am. The waves were up to 6 metres high and ferries in the nearby port of Sassnitz had been cancelled.
Prior to its sinking, Heweliusz had been involved in 28 incidents, including collisions with fishing boats, listing, engine failure, and a fire in 1986. It had ballast problems and had also damaged its hull in Ystad during docking, but this was not reported to the port authorities and only makeshift repairs were made. It sailed two hours late, carrying 10 railway carriages from 5 European countries.
The Marine Chamber of Appeals in Gdynia blamed the accident on the poor technical condition of the ship, with the captain, who died in the accident, also being blamed for allowing the ship to sail in such an unseaworthy state.
In 2005, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg ruled that the official investigation of the sinking was not impartial and granted 4600 euros in damages each to eleven relatives of the victims.
Today, the wreck of the ship is located at the depth of 27 metres and is frequently visited by divers.
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