Bulgaria (ship)

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Булгария корабы.jpg
Bulgaria on 8 August 2010
  • 1955–2010: Ukraina
  • 2010–2011: Bulgaria
Owner: OAO SK Kamskoye Rechnoye Parohodstvo (ОАО СК Камское речное пароходство)[1]
Port of registry:
Builder: Slovenské lodenice Komárno a.s. Komárno, Czechoslovakia
Yard number: 416
Launched: 1955
Out of service: 10 July 2011
Fate: Sunk
General characteristics
Class and type: 785/OL800 (in Slovakia)
Type: River cruise ship
Tonnage: 1,003
Length: 80.2 m (263 ft)
Beam: 12.5 m (41 ft)
Draught: 1.9 m (6.2 ft)
Decks: 2
Installed power: 546 kilowatts (732 hp)
Propulsion: diesel-electric, two engines[2]
Speed: 20.5 km/h (12.7 mph; 11.1 kn)
Capacity: 233
people's memorial in Kazan riverport

Bulgaria (Russian: Булга́рия, tr. Bulgariya) was a class 785/OL800 [2] Russian river cruise ship (built in Komárno, Czechoslovakia) which operated in the Volga-Don basin. On 10 July 2011, Bulgaria sank in the Kuybyshev Reservoir of the Volga River near Syukeyevo, Kamsko-Ustyinsky District, Tatarstan, Russia,[3] with 201[4] passengers and crew aboard[5] when sailing from the town of Bolgar to the regional capital, Kazan.[6] The catastrophe led to 122 confirmed deaths (bodies recovered and identified).[7][8]

The sinking of Bulgaria was Russia's worst maritime disaster since 1986, when the SS Admiral Nakhimov collided with a cargo ship and 423 people died.[9]


Bulgaria was built at Slovak shipyard in Komárno, Czechoslovakia, in 1955 as Ukraina, and was renamed in February 2010 to Bulgaria after the Volga Bulgaria.[2] Her length was 80.2 metres (263 ft), her beam was 12.5 metres (41 ft), her draft was 1.9 metres (6.2 ft), and her power output was 273 kilowatts (366 hp). She had two engines and two decks.[2] Her cruising speed was 20.5 kilometres per hour (12.7 mph; 11.1 kn), and her original passenger capacity was 233 (then reduced after overhaul).[2]

At the time of the sinking, Bulgaria was owned by Kamskoye Rechnoye Parokhodstvo, which leased the ship to OOO Briz, which in turn subleased it to OOO Argorechtur, which operated it, according to media reports, on a bareboat charter. That means OOO Agrorechtur accepted sole liability for technical maintenance and crew placement. Investigators claim that Argorechtur was operating the cruise ship without a proper licence, and the director of OOO Agrorechtur was arrested on 12 July 2011.[10]

Rescue of Bulgaria on 17 July 2011

On 22 July with the help of two salvage cranes Bulgaria was partially lifted to the water surface. On 23 July it was moved to the nearby shallow Gulf of Kirelsky, where its hold was sealed. On 25 July the bodies of the last two missing passengers were found in their cabins. On 26 July Bulgaria was placed to floating dock for further disaster investigation.


On 10 July 2011, Bulgaria was traveling in Tatarstan on the Volga River when she was caught in a storm and sank in several minutes at about 13:58 Moscow time (09:58 UTC), several hours after beginning her cruise.[11]

Survivors say that during the cruise, Bulgaria encountered stormy weather, and listed sharply to starboard. This was apparently compounded by the captain trying to turn the boat around, and soon water rushed into the vessel through portholes that had been opened because the ship had no air conditioning. According to a survivor, the sinking came without warning, and the vessel "listed to starboard ... and capsized and sank."[6] The boat sank within minutes, plunging nearly 20 metres (66 ft) to the river bed.[12][13] The sinking occurred about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from shore, in the Kamsko-Ustyinsky District.[14]


As of 25 July 2011, the officially confirmed death toll is at 122, with all bodies found so far identified.[7][8] On 11 July 2011, a government official from the Ministry of Emergency Situations said that the likelihood of finding additional survivors was slim, leaving a presumed total of up to 129 dead.[15][16] Among the dead were believed to be at least 50 children.[5] On 12 July 2011, the divers recovered bodies of Bulgaria's captain Alexander Ostrovsky and his spouse.[17]

Seventy-nine people (56 passengers and 23 crew members) were reported to have survived the sinking.[3] Of those, 76 were rescued by the cruise ship Arabella, a few others were saved by other boats, and one survivor managed to swim to the shore.[18] At the time of the incident, Bulgaria passenger's count is estimated to have been at 201, though she was only rated to carry 120.[11]

Passed ships[edit]

According to survivors' accounts, two ships (the oil tanker Volgoneft-104[19] [other sources claim it could have been the Volgoneft-38] and the freighter Arbat) passed by after the Bulgaria had sunk. The passing ships did not stop to help and the ICRF has launched an official investigation into these claims.[20] In accordance with Russian criminal code, article 270,[21] the captain of a ship that refuses to help in disaster could be sentenced to up to two years of deprivation of freedom. However it may also be that these ships, being heavy freight barges with minimal crews, were not technically capable of stopping while passing or of turning back in acceptable time. The barge owners refused to comment.[22] The technical reasons may not be sufficient to justify the refusal, as the article 270 of the Russian criminal code allows the only reason to refuse help when it could endanger a ship or its crew or passengers.[23][24] Assistance from the towboat Dunaisky 66 with two barges that appeared later after accident, was refused by Arabella's captain assuming that the towboat would not have provided useful help and would only hinder the rescue.[25] Both Volgoneft-104[26] and Volgoneft-38[27] are equipped with life boats and while coordinates are not precisely tracked they were approximately in the region of the accident.[22] Investigators did not charge captains of any oil tankers in relation to the Bulgaria disaster as of 15 July 2011; the only captains charged with failure to save are captains of Arbat (Yuri Tuchin) and Dunaisky 66 (Alexander Egorov).[28] These two ships seem also equipped with life boats.[29] On 28 February 2012, Alexander Egorov was found guilty by court. However, the court imposed only a relatively minor penalty of 190,000 RUB (less than 4,900 EUR). Egorov pleaded not guilty claiming that entering the disaster area while towing barges would have hindered the rescue operation. He is considering filing an appeal.[30]

Dead and injured by country[31]
Nationality Dead Injured
Russia Russian 120 13
Belarus Belarusian 2[32] 1
Total 122 14


On 11 July, an anonymous source close to the committee investigating the sinking said that the likely cause was portholes that were opened because of the lack of air conditioning on the vessel, which allowed water to enter Bulgaria when the captain attempted to turn the ship during stormy weather.[12][16]

Evidence suggested that a number of safety violations could have caused or compounded the disaster. According to one survivor, emergency exit doors on the boat had been sealed or locked shut. Investigators also suggested that the boat set sail with a list to the right, possibly due to full sewage or fuel tanks on that side, and with one of its engines not properly functioning.[12] Some survivors told Russian news agencies that they begged the captain to turn round because of the list, but were ignored. There were conflicting reports about whether the boat and the cruise operator were properly licensed for passenger cruises.[12] One of the diesels was not in operation when Bulgaria last set sail, which, according to investigators, is a serious violation of passenger boats regulations. Survivors from the crew claimed that Bulgaria had lost electric power minutes before she sank, which effectively disabled ship controls, and prevented the crew from making a distress call over radio. For some unknown reason the emergency power did not come in. It was not until Arabella picked up first survivors that authorities found out the name of the vessel and the true scale of the disaster.

While the ship was not licensed to carry the number of passengers that were on board, it likely was not technically overloaded as in the past has been tested with as much as 2000 passengers.[33]

Government reaction[edit]

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev holds a moment of silence, 11 July 2011.

President Dmitry Medvedev on 11 July ordered "a complete check on all means of passenger transport" in Russia in response to the sinking of Bulgaria, and also declared 12 July a national day of mourning for those killed in the incident.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Булгария (Украина → 04.2010) (Russian)
  2. ^ a b c d e Теплоход проекта 785 "Булгария". Справка (in Russian). RBC.ru. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Death toll in Volga boat tragedy reaches 54, over 50 missing". RIA Novosti. 11 July 2011. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 
  4. ^ http://www.vz.ru/news/2011/7/24/509554.html
  5. ^ a b c "Russia Volga boat tragedy: Medvedev orders review". BBC News. 11 July 2011. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "Russia fears 110 dead as boat sinks on Volga River". BBC News. 11 July 2011. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 
  7. ^ a b http://www.svobodanews.ru/content/article/24275528.html
  8. ^ a b Число пропавших пассажиров "Булгарии" сократилось до трех [Bulgaria missing toll down to three] (in Russian). Lenta.ru. 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  9. ^ Крупнейшие катастрофы кораблей стран бывшего СССР :: Чрезвычайные происшествия Archived 13 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. Top.rbc.ru. Retrieved on 2011-07-14.
  10. ^ Leaseholder's company director detained. Lenta.ru. 12 July 2011. Retrieved on 2011-07-14.
  11. ^ a b "Sunken cruise ship left port listing with broken engine". RIA Novosti. 11 July 2011. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 
  12. ^ a b c d "Cruise deaths likely to top 100 as safety violations emerge". The Independent. UK. 11 July 2011. Archived from the original on 12 July 2011. Retrieved 12 July 2011. 
  13. ^ "100 missing after cruiser sinks on river Volga". The Independent. UK. 11 July 2011. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 
  14. ^ "According to preliminary data 84 people have been rescued from 173 on board of the sunk ship in Volga River. One woman died Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine.." Ministry of Emergency Situations. Retrieved on 12 July 2011.
  15. ^ "Volga river boat sinking: rescuers give up hope of finding more survivors". The Guardian. UK. 11 July 2011. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 
  16. ^ a b "At Least 129 Dead in Volga River Tragedy". The Moscow Times. 11 July 2011. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 
  17. ^ Спасатели обнаружили тело капитана 'Булгарии' (in Russian). Lenta.ru. 12 July 2011. Retrieved 12 July 2011. 
  18. ^ "Неисправный и без лицензии". Lenta.ru. 11 July 2011. Archived from the original on 12 July 2011. Retrieved 12 July 2011. 
  19. ^ Ships that have refused to help are identified. Lifenews.ru. (in Russian)
  20. ^ На двух капитанов заведут дела за неоказание помощи "Булгарии" [Two captains will be investigated in regards to Bulgaria sinking] (in Russian). Lenta.ru. 12 July 2011. Retrieved 12 July 2011. 
  21. ^ Captains that refused to help become figurants of criminal investigation (in Russian)
  22. ^ a b Could tanker pass by the sinking people? (in Russian)
  23. ^ Russian Criminal Code, Article 270
  24. ^ Sinking people from Bulgaria were not seen well enough ... (in Russian)
  25. ^ Roman Lizalin (Arabela captain): the barge could only hinder saving the people (in Russian)
  26. ^ Volgoneft-104 site
  27. ^ Volgoneft 38 site
  28. ^ Investigators ordered to detain the captains. (In Russian).By lenta.ru on 2011-07-15. Accessdate 2011-07-15
  29. ^ Dunaisky 66 and Arbat photos, taken by ship watching enthusiasts.
  30. ^ "Towboat captain fined for failing to rescue Bulgaria" (in Russian). lenta.ru. 2012-02-28. Retrieved 2012-02-28. 
  31. ^ Родственники опознали белоруску среди погибших на теплоходе 'Булгария' (in Russian). 12 July 2011. Retrieved 12 July 2011. 
  32. ^ http://j-new-company.ru/Tula-7.htm[permanent dead link]
  33. ^ Samaritian Captain: At a time, Bulgaria was able to carry 2000 people on board

External links[edit]