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Bounty sinking Coast Guard final report- rot, decay, low standards

by US Coast Guard/Sail-World Cruising on 14 Jun 2014
The much published tragic image of HMS Bounty in her death throes .. .
This week the U.S. Coast Guard released its report of investigation of the October 2012 sinking of the tall ship Bounty, during which one crewmember died and the Captain remains missing and is presumed dead, off the coast of Cape Hatteras, N.C.

The findings in the report, as expected, conclude that a combination of faulty management and crew risk assessment procedures contributed to the sinking.

Specifically, choosing to navigate a vessel in insufficient material condition in close proximity to an approaching hurricane with an inexperienced crew was highlighted.

The vessel was built for the 1962 film 'Mutiny on the Bounty' starring Marlon Brando. The ship also appeared in one of the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' movies. When not in use by moviemakers, the ship was a pier-side attraction for visitors in ports and also served as an educational ship used to teach people how to sail.

Interestingly, in a finding that may impact on future such tall ships, the report said the HMS Bounty Organization chose to meet only the lesser standards of a recreational vessel, not the tougher requirements of a passenger craft.

The Bounty could have been certified as a small passenger or sailing-school vessel, but 'the Bounty's management decided against taking the steps necessary to meet the minimum safety requirements that would have applied with such certification in favor of the less stringent recreational standards.'

The previous NTSB report noted that the wooden vessel took on water even in good sailing conditions and some wood rot also had been recently discovered on the ship.

Workers at a Maine shipyard where the Bounty had received repairs testified during a joint Coast Guard and NTSB hearing last year that the ship 'had a decaying frame with an undetermined amount of rot in it before leaving port weeks before it sank.'

A phone number for the ship's parent organization in East Setauket, New York, was disconnected this week. The Bounty was owned by Robert Hansen. A person who answered the phone at Hansen's home said he was not available and would not take a message.

As a result of the investigation, the report recommends that the Coast Guard review the existing policy for attraction vessels, including vessel manning and operating status.

The report also lists such recommendations as that the HMS Bounty Organization establish organizational policy that dictates vessel operational parameters based on weather, sea state or destination, and also establish organizational policy and requirements for hiring of a professional engineer in the event they operate a vessel in the future.

The incident:
The 108-foot-long ship set sail from New London, Connecticut, for St. Petersburg, Florida, Oct. 25, 2012, a day after Sandy reached hurricane strength. The plan was for the Bounty to arrive in St. Petersburg for a Nov. 10 event. But early in the morning of Oct. 29, 2012, the ship sank after taking on more than 10 feet of water. Crew members had to swim for their lives in the dark when the ship overturned.

The report may be accessed at https://homeport.uscg.mil/mycg/portal/ep/browse.do?channelId=-18374.
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