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Wreck of the Fu Shan Hai - disaster off Bornholm

Almost at noon on 31 May 2003, 3 miles north-west of the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm, there was a collision of two large vessels. A huge panamax class bulk carrier M/S Fu Shan Hai, coming from Lithuania, was rammed by over twice smaller container ship M/S Gdynia, on its way to the
Published: November 29, 2011 - 13:43
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 06:39
Wreck of the Fu Shan Hai – disaster off Bornholm


Almost at noon on 31 May 2003, 3 miles north-west of the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm, there was a collision of two large vessels. A huge panamax class bulk carrier M/S Fu Shan Hai, coming from Lithuania, was rammed by over twice smaller container ship M/S Gdynia, on its way to the English port of Hull. The result was the sinking of one of the vessels and damage to the other, while a huge area was exposed to an ecological disaster.

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Gallery of the sinking of the M/S Fu Shan Hai

Gdynia”, owned by the Szczecin shipping company Euroafrica and flying the Cypriot flag, was carrying 300 containers on its deck. Its “victim”, the bulk carrier “Fu Shang Hai” belonging to the Chinese shipowner Cosco, was carrying 66 thousand tonnes of artificial fertilisers and 1.7 thousand tonnes of crude oil in its holds.

There were no forebodings for a drama. The conditions on the Baltic that day were excellent. Very good visibility, sunny weather and an almost flat sea.

The collision occurred at 12.08 p.m. The M/S Gdynia rammed the port side of the Chinese colossus causing damage that ultimately led to its sinking. Fortunately there were no casualties, as 27 crew members managed to evacuate to Scandinavian rescue vessels. The Szczecin shipowner’s carrier, despite the damage to its bow, did not lose buoyancy and was able to return to port. The slight damage to the “Gdynia” was due to the fact that it is a ship that meets the requirements of ice class E1 (adapted to crushing ice of a certain thickness).

The “Fu Shan Hai” was hit on the port side at full speed, while attempting to perform a stern passing manoeuvre. The position of the two vessels in relation to each other was at an almost perfect right angle, which, given the above structural adjustment of the “Gdynia”, had to end tragically for the Asian ship. At 20.49, M/S Fu Shan Hai disappeared under the surface of the Baltic Sea.

As the results of the investigation showed, the collision was the fault of the M/S Gdynia, where mistakes were made by the crew.

However, the sinking of the colossal ship was only the first act of the tragedy. The toxic cargo that the Chinese bulk carrier was carrying brought the spectre of a real ecological disaster to the Scandinavian countries. Fortunately, the ongoing rescue operation minimised the environmental impact of the whole incident. There were, however, some nervous moments and accusations from the Swedes against the Danes for starting the rescue operation too late.

For the sunken ship, a new period began in 2007. After four years, the wreck was approved as a diving site (previously, due to the toxic cargo, diving was prohibited). The wreck in itself is very interesting, and different parts of it are accessible to divers with very different qualifications. This is influenced by the fact that at its deepest point it is almost 70m, but the huge and interesting superstructure starts at about 30m.

You can go to the wrecks around Bornholm with the Polish boat Nitrox, which organises trips to the area. The popular “Chinaman”, is located about 45min from the shore.

Just diving on a vessel measuring 225m is something incredible. We should plan our dive according to the possibilities of the group that will appear on site. If we want to visit something outside the superstructure, it will be necessary to use scooters (depth + long distances to cover = little time for diving).

Outside, on first contact, the most attention must be paid to the roof full of antennas and the sensational looking stairs that are on either side of the wreck. Descending lower and lower, we finally reach a huge screw, which is located at 65m. Contact with such a huge object leaves a huge impression.

Further along we can take a trip along the side. At a depth of about 50m there is the main deck and huge hatches leading to the hold. If you swim over such a hatch, you may lose your orientation, because the entrance is so huge that it gives the impression that you are outside the wreck!

As for the superstructure, it is a very graceful place to explore. Penetrating the interior, the corridors, the bridge and the cabins, brings enormous satisfaction. However, you have to be careful, because it is more and more dangerous. The wreck is covered with sediment, which if stirred up can result in getting stuck in a maze of rooms. In the cabins and rooms, you can find a lot of everyday objects. The binders on the shelf, which turn into powder when you try to touch them, are very impressive. There is also no point in venturing too deep into the wreck, as it would take at least 20 dives to explore everything.

Diving on the wreck of M/S Fu Shan Hai, is one of the difficult ones. Not as difficult as on the Franken wreck, but to visit the “Chinese” wreck, apart from training and appropriate equipment, we will need a group with high skills. During the dive there is almost Egyptian darkness, but proper lighting will provide us with several meters of visibility. It is necessary to remember about accurate navigation, because getting lost on wrecks of this size creates serious problems. Nets, which have already started to wrap around the wreck, become an additional danger.

Source:, Divers24

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Marcin Pawelczyk
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