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Perhaps there is an additional load equivalent to the weight of more than 118 persons.

the load could be due to some goods being transported.

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The word ship doesn't always indicate the typical open air vessels, instead many of the times all kinds of water transports in general are commonly referred as  ships.
So, probably in the above riddle, the word ship is used for a submarine. The underwater ship is made to hold 500 hundred people,but the current required crew is only of 382 individuals and the sub goes down or as stated in the riddle sinks with them.

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