The Coast Guard is conducting a Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) into the deadly July 2018 sinking of the DUKW-type amphibious vessel Stretch Duck 7 in which 17 people lost their lives. The Coast Guard says “it will consider implementation of further safety measures for DUKWs at the conclusion of the MBI.” In the meantime it has issued a Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB Number: 15-20) that recommends that vessel owners and operators of DUKW passenger vessels remove canopies, side curtains, and associated overhead framing to improve emergency egress for passengers and crew.
This is not the first time that operators of these vessels have been recommended to take this step.
The MSIB notes that following the sinking of the DUKW Miss Majestic in 1999 [in which 13 people died], the NTSB and Coast Guard found the vessel lacked sufficient reserve buoyancy to remain afloat and upright when flooded. Additionally, the canopy and side curtains restricted passenger egress. In response, the Coast Guard developed a Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) 1-01 that detailed operational requirements and laid out an equivalent level of safety to other vessels certificated under 46 Code of Federal Regulations Subchapter T for items such as modifications to the side curtains to improve emergency egress.
During its preliminary NTSB investigation of the Stretch Duck 7 incident, the NTSB reissued a safety recommendation to the Coast Guard regarding the removal of canopies on DUKW vessels that lack sufficient reserve buoyancy to stay afloat when flooded.
The MSIB says the preliminary findings of the Coast Guard’s Stretch Duck 7 MBI align with the NTSB’s recommendation to remove DUKW canopies in order to ensure emergency egress is not impeded.
According to the MSIB, owners and operators opting to remove canopies should work with their local Coast Guard Officer in Charge of Marine Inspection (OCMI) and the Marine Safety Center to arrange an inspection and stability review prior to recommencing operations. All vessel operators are reminded that they should always follow the requirements listed on the vessel’s Certificate of Inspection (COI), paying particular attention to wind and wave restrictions to ensure they will not be exceeded for the duration of each voyage.
Download the MSIB HERE