The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) will publish at 0001 hrs tomorrow a report into the two incidents involving DUKW amphibious passenger vehicles; the sinking of Wacker Quacker 1 on 15 June 2013 in Salthouse Dock, Liverpool and the fire on board the Cleopatra during a sightseeing tour on the River Thames, London, on 29 September 2013.
In both incidents passengers and crew were forced to abandon the vehicle and were recovered from the water without serious injury.
MAIB Chief Inspector Steve Clinch said:
“This has been a protracted investigation during which it has become evident that regulators in several countries have struggled with the challenge of certifying World War 2 DUKWs for commercial passenger-carrying operations.
“The sinking of two Liverpool DUKWs in quick succession highlighted extremely poor standards of maintenance, and that for nearly 14 years they had operated with insufficient buoyancy foam to keep them afloat should they suffer major damage.
“It was extremely fortunate when DUKW Wacker Quacker 1 sank in Salthouse Dock that none of the 33 passengers and crew on board were drowned or injured as they abandoned ship.
“As a consequence of checks made following the sinking of Wacker Quacker 1, it became clear that other DUKWS operating in the UK did not have the quantities of buoyancy foam required by the regulator. Focus shifted to ensuring that these amphibious passenger vehicles would float when flooded. However, insufficient attention was paid to the consequences of adding additional buoyancy foam into these small vehicles.
“In the London DUKW, Cleopatra, foam was so tightly packed around machinery that it caught fire, resulting in 30 passengers and crew needing to rapidly abandon the vehicle into the Thames. Following this accident, I recommended to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency that the DUKWs should not be allowed to operate until satisfactory levels of safety could be assured.
“As this report is published, I am encouraged that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and DUKW operators are working closely together to devise a framework for safely operating amphibious vehicles in the future. However, I am concerned that it has required two potentially fatal DUKW accidents to stimulate all involved into taking actions that should have been completed before passenger carrying operations were first authorised.
“I sincerely hope that the safety lessons identified in this report will be learned and appropriate actions taken to improve regulatory oversight and compliance so as to ensure the safe operation of amphibious vessels in the future.”