There was disturbing news out of China yesterday: A passenger ship carrying more than 450 people reportedly sank on the evening of May 31, 2015 on the Yangtze River when it encountered bad weather that included a cyclone.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said the Eastern Star, owned by the Chongqing Eastern Shipping Company, was carrying 406 Chinese passengers, five employees of a travel agency, and a crew of 47. Eight people, including the captain and chief engineer, have been rescued at the time of this writing. The rest remain missing.
It’s important to stress that this ship appears to be a local passenger vessel aimed at Chinese visitors. It is not a river cruise vessel chartered or operated by any major North American-affiliated river cruise line. Most multi-night river cruise vessels operating along the Yangtze for North American and European operators carry roughly half the passenger complement of the Eastern Star.
Still, the incident is one of the first high-profile incidents involving a river cruise vessel to make mainstream media headlines, and there will naturally be confusion about both the ship, her passengers, and the nature of her operations and itineraries.
We will continue to update the situation as more information becomes available. Again, we want to stress: At this point in time, there are no reports of any North American or European-chartered river cruise vessels along the Yangtze encountering any issues on the evening of May 31, 2015. The incident in question is exclusively related to the Eastern Star.
We will update this story with more information as it becomes available.