QIGuy24 raised a chilling point in his terrorism post earlier and i wanted to share my opinions on this - as its not directly related to the piece i thought id start a new thread so we could have some opinions on this. I work in the Marine industry, and have extensive experience working on ferries, I have my degree in Ferry operations business, and work writing credit reports now for ferry and cruise companies as well as airlines. Not wishing to be morbid, but ive been considering the effects of what would happen if a terrorist attack took place on a ferry, and it makes disturbing reading.
Its very difficult to blow up a ferry. You would need many thousands of pounds of explosives to do any meaningful damage - they are very structurally strong - But its easy to kill nearly everyone on board - small incendiary charge on a tank trailer on the vehicle deck - very easy to smuggle aboard and easy to place - once theres a bad fire on the cardeck - ie: refined petrochemicals in a tanker vessel or trailer - not all ferries have weatherdecks fore or aft, so for the most part all the IMDG stuff goes on the vehicle decks. (IMDG - International Maritime certified Dangerous Goods - ie: petrochemicals, refined hydrocarbons, oxidising agents, flammable liquids, gases, explosives etc).
All vehicle ferries over a certain gross tonnage now have to have longitudinal bulkhead doors to prevent fires from spreading through the car deck but these are normally aluminium and will melt in eight or nine minutes, if the fire is hot enough - ie: if you are burning Kerosene or something. Either way, they are not air tight, normally there is a gap at the top to aid ventilation, and the other compartments will certainly flashover (air temperature in the adjoining compartment is risen due to transferred heat from the involved compartment to the point where the oxygen in the air combusts) before the doors melt. The vehicle decks have a degree of fire protection in the form of sprinklers, and sometimes halon gas flooders, but these are of limited use on a really severe petrochemicals fire. Then you have secondary explosions from petrol tanks and other nasties cooking off in the fire.
Expect smoke to fill the lower decks and begin rising into the passenger decks inside four minutes, and to reach the upper decks in six. Anyone below the car decks (many large overnight ferries have passenger cabins and such below the car decks) is in real trouble, quite simply as smoke or fire may reach the stairwells down very quickly.
For maximum passenger casualties you would need to detonate the bomb in the middle of the night - say, just before three, when everyone is in bed, and the crew are at their lowest state of readiness. If it is good weather there are probably only two people on the bridge, and probably only the second officer - the more senior deck officers often prefer not to take the really late shifts, especially on ferries. People react slower at night time. This includes emergency services.
For maximum effect, further incendiaries may be planted in cabins and lower deck areas where the fire may not be discovered until it has taken hold and become too intense to extinguish with hand held fire extinguishers.
The reason fires are so dangerous is because of the materials used in fitting out passenger ferries - when they burn they really, really burn very quickly, and often give off toxic gases, which mix with the smoke meaning that from when you first smell smoke, unless you are perhaps thirty seconds from clean air ie: outside - open decks, then you will collapse from the toxic effects of the gases and die where you fall. The vast majority of people who died in the Scandinavian Star tragedy died because they didnt get out of the smoke quick enough and passed out from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
Now think of this.
The newer breed of overnight cruise ferry, more often found in the Baltic, though also in numbers on English Channel, can carry more than 1,500 people in cabins, sometimes as many as 2,200. It takes more than ten to twelve minutes to get everyone out on deck at at the outside muster stations ready to embark the lifeboats and liferafts, after the first alarm has been raised. Think it probably takes thirty seconds to raise the alarm if the fire/explosion is on the cardeck, but much, much longer if it is in an enclosed upper deck space, such as the cinema, cleaning locker, or cabin block. The muster alarm may not be given right away - it is the call of the senior bridge personel at the time - they may wish to sound the general alarm, and send the night watchman to investigate the alarm.
So, assuming the alarm is raised quickly and professionally, then the people who can get out of the rapidly smoke filling superstructure, will be gathered out on deck and awaiting the Master's signal to commence abandonment procedures - this will mean, again, assuming all is going well, that people will be preparing 25 person liferafts which will be lauched over the side with one crew member and 24 passengers in. The lifeboats will take 200+ each. This procedure will take no longer than 20 minutes to disembark everyone. By the end of this, the first of the helicopters will be overhead, again, assuming all goes well and the weather is fine, and any passing shipping will be on scene soon. If anyone goes in the water fully clothed in the winter ie: now, in the shallow English Channel, they have maybe eight minutes before they die of cold, less if the person is unfit etc. This time is much reduced in the colder waters of the North Sea.
Potentially you could kill hundreds of people this way.
What a chilling and horrible prospect this little scenario makes.
More so when you consider that Spanish police intercepted an ETA bomb plot to attack the Brittany Ferries Val de Loire out of the Basque port of Santander back in 1999.
Any thoughts guys?