Call for mandatory keel guidance

'Tyger of London' Comar Yachts’ Comar Comet 45 'Tyger of London' capsized in December 2017. Image: MAIB

A major accident has prompted a call to require manufacturers provide guidance on the inspection and maintenance of keels fitted to their craft.

Following the investigation of the keel failure and capsize of Comar Yachts’ Comar Comet 45 Tyger of London, off Punta Rasca, Tenerife in December 2017, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) recommended in its accident report that British Marine propose changes to the International Standards Organisation (ISO), to require, rather than recommend, this guidance.

The recommendation was initially made in June 2018 and followed the initial MAIB investigation. The investigation found that the failure of the keel structure caused the loss of the keel and led to the 13.77m yacht capsizing.

Manufacturing problem

Technical inspection of the keel plate, recovered with the hull, revealed that the keel had not been manufactured in accordance with the designer’s drawings. Furthermore, the unusual keel design meant that the condition of the weakest part of the keel structure could not be monitored or inspected as it was hidden within the external lead casting, stated the report.

The MAIB has issued a safety bulletin advising owners of yachts fitted with similar keels to note that due to its design, the condition and tightness of the keel bolts do not indicate the true condition of the keel. It said owners should arrange for an out of water inspection by a suitably qualified surveyor if a yacht is damaged, grounded or if there is any doubt as to the condition of the keel.

MAIB’s keel guidance recommendation was backed by Andrew Moll, chief inspector of marine accidents. On publication of the report last month, he said: “The failure of Tyger of London’s keel is a timely reminder that a yacht’s keel is a safety critical item, and it should be surveyed and inspected regularly with this in mind.”

Stowage lessons

The incident, involved Tyger of London heeling to starboard, capsizing and inverting. The crew were able to release their lifelines and fall into the water where their lifejackets automatically inflated. They were rescued by another yacht, St Barbara V, whose skipper raised the alarm.The EPIRB and liferaft were not rigged to float-free and the crew did not have time to release and operate them before the yacht capsized.

The reported stated that multiple actions have been taken by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and BM to improve guidance on keel inspection and the stowage of lifesaving appliances.

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