Another glimpse into reality at sea
In the latter part of the last century there was a spate of ship disappearances on the route between Australia's north west and Europe. It triggered an industrial campaign called The Ships of Shame based on this probable scenario:-
At seventy thousand tonnes, the World Trader could have been the Sankara’s sister ship. Built in Poland at the same time using the same design philosophy, she had passed through two changes of flag and three different owners, sinking down through the shipping hierarchy until she scrambled for cargoes and was manned by the cheapest possible crew. Threatened with arrest in her last European port because of unpaid bills, she was loaded with iron ore from Port Hedland and bound for Gdansk in a last throw by her owners to avoid seizure. For months now she had steamed at the most economical speed, but a loan deadline was looming and the owners had ordered her back to her designed cruising speed of sixteen knots to reach Gdansk in time.
Caught in the confluence of the Mozambique and Aguhlas currents, her speed over the ground had increased even further as she approached the subsea Mozambique Escarpment where the sea bottom rose sharply for over two thousand feet. A southern storm had swept around the Cape of Good Hope, blowing in opposition to what was now the strongest ocean current in the world and the eddies caused by the subsea escarpment had created monstrous steep waves in her path.
It was two o’clock in the morning, with everyone asleep bar the watch-keepers when she hit the first of these at a forward velocity of nineteen knots and buried her bow deep in its forward slope. Buoyancy fought the weight of water pressing down on her foc’sle deck creating a localized bending force. The special steel used in her internal structure, weakened by years of loading acidic ballast water in contaminated industrialized ports, was inadequate to the task and the forward sixty feet of the ship broke off, the rending of the metal drowned by the sea. The water flooded into the first hold, filling it instantly with a force greater than the after bulkhead could withstand and it failed spectacularly filling the second hold. The next bulkhead, subjected in turn to the bending moment between buoyancy and the flooding sea, failed in turn, triggering a sequence that flooded each cargo hold in succession. Twenty seconds after the initial failure, still driven forward by her engines and dragged down by seventy thousand tonnes of iron ore, the World Trader disappeared beneath the surface. There were no survivors and only a quickly dissipating scum of iron ore dust to mark her passing.
The foregoing is taken from A Maritime Tragedy but is the best informed guess of an actual sequence of events