CruiseCriminal investigation launched into Danube River tragedy.

Are Europe's busy waterways too crowded?

Viking River Crusie 190531
A Viking river ship passes through Budapest.
The deadly collision between the Hableany (Mermaid)  tour boat and the Viking Sigyn in Budapest was the second involving a Viking river ship this season, and at least the third involving a river cruise ship in Europe in less than a year.

The collision Wednesday happened as the vessels were going under a bridge during a rainy night in fast-running waters on the Danube, reported the Associated Press.

The AP quoted police as saying the smaller tour boat carrying 33 Korean tourists appeared to veer into the Viking ship, tipping and sinking within seconds of being hit. Seven people were killed and 21 others were missing, authorities said. Seven others were rescued. None were wearing life jackets, the AP reported.

A Viking spokesman confirmed their ship was involved in a fatal collision but gave few other details. "We offer our heartfelt condolences to those affected by this tragic accident," the spokesman said. "There were no injuries to Viking crew or Viking guests. We have been and continue to cooperate fully with the authorities while they undertake their investigations."

HVG, a Hungarian news portal, quoted a captain with 27 years of experience on the Danube as saying it had only been a matter of time before such an accident occurred on the river in Budapest, which is crowded at night with cruise ships and smaller vessels sailing to see the city’s famed Parliament and other buildings illuminated.

It was the second collision for a Viking ship this season. In April, the Viking Idun collided with a cargo vessel while sailing through Belgium.

Still, collisions between river cruise ships and the many cargo and other vessels that ply Europe’s waterways have been relatively rare, although the number of cruise ships has risen dramatically in recent years.

According to the 2018 annual report from Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine, Europe’s river cruise fleet more than doubled between 2004 and 2017, with 346 active ships with 50,616 beds sailing in 2017. Dozens have been added since, although some older vessels have also been removed.

And while Europe’s rivers are getting busier, a report from the German Waterway and Shipping Administration and the Ministry of Transport indicates collisions have declined dramatically.

Citing the German statistics, CCNR said the most frequent collisions involved boats hitting bridges. Less than 20% of the accidents involved vessels hitting each other, and most involved small pleasure vessels.

Update: A criminal investigation has been launched into the collision, a rare incident on the Danube where navigation is busy but generally safe. A 64-year-old Ukrainian national – captain of the Viking Sigyn – has been held for questioning by Hungarian authorities, says the BBC.

Source: Travel Weekly USA

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