Ships 2

Danny FII

Ships 3

Ill Fated Danny FII

Livestock Packed Danny FII Claims 44 Lives

By James Donahue

The rusted old converted ferry Danny FII was packed to the gunwales with 17,932 cows and 10,224 head of sheep bound from Uruguay to the Syrian port of Tartous when it capsized and sank in a storm in the Mediterranean Sea, 11 miles off Tripoli, the evening of Dec. 17, 2009.

Forty-four people out of a crew of 76 plus six passengers perished in the disaster. Rescue vessels responding to an S.O.S. call, plucked 38 survivors out of a raging sea filled with the carcasses of thousands of drowned animals.

The Danny FII was a disaster waiting to happen. Operating under a Panamanian flag the ship had been detained as early as 1997 for a wide range of safety violations that included corrosion in the bulkheads, navigation lights that were not in working order, a broken water tight door, defective lifeboats and life-saving equipment, and an inoperative radio system.

Built in 1976 as a car ferry, the ship was converted to carry livestock. That is what it had been doing regularly, making routine trips between Montevideo to Tripoli, before the storm claimed it in 2009.

In spite of efforts by animal rights activists to stop the shipping of live animals, packed in cramped and cruel conditions in the holds of ships, the regular shipments of sheep and cattle to the Middle East is a common practice. This is because Islamic law forbids the consumption of meat that has not been slaughtered in a religiously sanctioned ritual.

The Danny FII had a cargo area of about 28,000 square meters, so it was legally allowed to carry up to 82,000 sheep on a single trip.

The vessel got into trouble when hit by severe storms that battered the Eastern Mediterranean. The captain, who was said to have been British, turned the ship to Beirut when it capsized. Many of the crew members who survived were wearing life jackets, which suggested that they had time to prepare for what happened.

One survivor, Guillermo Rios, 19, of Uruguay, said he was on deck when the vessel unexpectedly capsized. “We jumped into the sea seconds before the vessel disappeared,” he said. “I couldn’t believe what was happening.” Rios said he held onto a piece of wood, and later a life raft until help arrived.

There was some irony in that the crew had watched the movie “Titanic” the night before the ship sank.