Keoghs Insight


Daniel Crockford

Daniel Crockford


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Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) keel warning


Four years after the Cheeki Rafiki sinking and three years after they published their report and recommendations, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has issued a safety bulletin following the keel failure and capsizing of the commercial yacht Tyger of London. Partner in Keoghs’ Marine, Ports & Offshore team, Daniel Crockford, takes us through some of the findings and reminds us of the importance of regular inspections:

On 7th December 2017 Tyger of London capsized whilst sailing from La Gomera to Tenerife as a result of a keel failure. Fortunately, unlike the sad events surrounding the Cheeki Rafiki, all five of the crew were rescued from the water by a nearby yacht.

However, the incident is a stark reminder of the need to regularly investigate and inspect keel damage, especially after any grounding, even when the grounding is thought to have been light.

Tyger of London was a Comar Comet 45S designed by Vallicelli & C and built by Comar yachts in 2007. She had been used as a commercial charter since 2013 and had been sailed some 29,000 nautical miles since she was built at the time of the incident.

She had a 3,700kg ‘shallow draught, lead keel’, consisting of a fabricated rectangular stainless steel top plate and frame, onto which lead was cast to form the keel.

The top plate was recovered and inspected by the MAIB which revealed that the keel had not been manufactured in accordance with the designer’s specifications, namely that stainless steel rods forming the frame and their interconnecting plates had only been partially welded to the underside of the top plate. Over time the joints progressively failed with the final failure on 7th December 2017 when the keel separated from the top plate quickly causing the yacht to capsize.

Tyger of London had been involved in a number of groundings since she was built, all described as being light and onto sand or mud. Furthermore, she had been removed from the water 22 months prior to the incident at which time paint and filler was removed to allow the keel plate and lead keel to be inspected. The inspection found that the securing bolts between the keel and the hull matrix were in good condition. However, the welded joints between the keel’s frame and top plate were not inspected because the lead casting prevented it.

Although the MAIB are not aware of any other failings, their bulletin does list similar yachts with the same keel arrangements, for which they recommend the following steps to owners:

  • To note that the securing bolts within the bilge of their boats, for this type of shallow draught lead keel, connect the top plate to the hull. The condition and tightness of these keel securing bolts do not indicate the true condition of the keel’s internal frame structure.
  • To arrange for an out of water inspection of their vessel by a suitably qualified yacht surveyor at the earliest opportunity if the yacht has grounded, been heavily used, or if they have any concern whatsoever as to the condition of the keel, noting the difficulty of inspection of the junction between lead keel and top plate.
  • To note that, although the manufacturer, Comar Yachts s.r.l, has ceased trading, technical advice may be sought from Gesti Nautica s.r.l, a ship repair yard that has experience of these vessels.

Their contact details are:

Gesti Nautica s.r.l
Via Fulco Ruffo dia Calabria snc
00054 Fiumicino (RM)
Tel: +39 066506752

The MAIB are to release a full report into the incident later this year.

Although this safety bulletin is specifically aimed at owners of similar yachts to Tyger of London and highlights potential build defects, it is also a timely reminder of the need to regularly inspect keels, especially after any form of grounding incident.

Insurers would also be well advised to review this safety bulletin. Although the recommendations that came out of the MAIB’s report on the Cheeki Rafiki focused on owners and sailing organisations/authorities such as the RYA, British Marine, and the MCA, the insurance industry is well placed to take a leading role in helping to prevent this type of incident occurring.

Insurers have direct contact with their assureds at various points during the policy period. This could be at inception, renewal or after a claim. These would all present good opportunities to remind owners to have their keel inspected, particularly after a grounding incident.

Insurers also have close links and good relationships with surveyors and surveying organisations such as the YDSA and IIMS which could be used to highlight this issue with their assureds during surveys.

It might seem that these steps take insurers outside of their usual remit however the yacht industry is a tight community and any steps that can help reduce the potential financial and human cost that arises from a significant keel failure incident can only be of benefit to all stakeholders. The Tyger of London bulletin is a reminder that this is still a serious issue affecting the industry.

To view the MAIB’s full bulletin click here