Sinking of MV Sinar Bangun in Indonesia

Safe transportation is an aim for every transportation mode, including Ships. Unfortunately, this mode transportation has some unsafe condition experience that happens throughout the world, including in Indonesia. The ship is called KM Sinar Bangun (Motor Vessel Sinar Bangun) that serve transportation of ferry ship in Lake Toba, North Sumatra, the biggest Lake in Indonesia.

KM Sinar Bangun sank on 18 June 2018, during its trip from Simanindo Harbour in Samosir Island to Tiga Ras Harbour in Simalungun Regency, Sumatra Island. The ferry was carrying 188 passengers including crews, which overcrowd its maximum capacity of 43 passengers. This is horribly overmeasured as its surpassed more than 4 times of its capacity. After the sinking, the casualties we found twenty-one survivors were rescued, three dead and 164 people were listed as missing and presumed dead and sunk under water.

Picture 1. KM Sinar Bangun, before it sank in 2018.

Investigation Result:

This matter has not just embarassed the crew and the ferry company, but also to Minister of Transportation and even President of Indonesia, that safety is not prioritized in transportation. From this matter, The Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee concluded that the sinking was caused by overloading, and authorities have decided the captain and crew, who survived, were guilty and sentenced in prison. When the accident happened, the life jacket quantity is not even conformed for all the passenger and crew number due to overcrowded ship (45 life jackets). The crews’ decision to load the ferry to four times its capacity, and with improper loading size, caused the ferry to be severely unstable. When the sinking happened, the escape routes were blocked by vehicles, many passengers were unable to escape and were thus trapped inside the ferry.

Another unfortunate factor is the vast amount of steel on the structure of the ferry, inside the wood shell structure. This has spoiled the design consideration of a ship. Since steel is heavier than wood and since it was used for the upper deck, the ferry becomes unstable, especially when overcrowded. This has impact on all of the ferry ship operators in Lake Toba to study more of the ship design, and enrich education of how safety is important from design to operations.

References :

CBS, 2018, “Indonesia Ferry Sinks in Lake Toba Leaving Almost 200 Missing Feared Dead”, accessed on 29 January 2020, <>.

KNKT, 2018, “Laporan Investigasi Kecelakaan Pelayaran Tenggelamnya Sinar Bangun 4 Perairan Danau Toba Pelabuhan Tigaras, Simalungun, Sumatera Utara, Republik Indonesia” (in Indonesian), accessed on 2 February 2020, <>.