Why are duck boats still in operation?

NTSB issues recommendations on the safety of duck boats

U.S. federal officials are calling for new safety rules following the fatal sinking of an amphibious liner in Missouri in July 2018.

17 of the 31 people aboard the modified World War II amphibious liner Stretch Duck 7 died when the ship sank during a rapidly developing storm on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri.

As part of its ongoing investigation into the July 19, 2018 accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report on the Maritime Safety Recommendation on Wednesday calling on the U.S. Coast Guard to call for new safety measures, including regulations to ensure sufficient buoyancy of the reserves for amphibious DUKW passenger ships and to remove canopies, side curtains and the associated frames during the journey for those without sufficient buoyancy reserve.

The latest security advisories from NTSB are not new. Since 1999, the investigative authority responsible for investigating accidents in civil traffic has issued 22 safety recommendations relating to modified DUKW amphibious passenger ships from the Second World War. Of these 22, only nine have been implemented and another four are pending and are classified as an open response.

The remaining nine were not implemented and were classified as open - unacceptable response, closed - unacceptable action, or closed - unacceptable action / no response. NTSB believes that implementing these safety recommendations could have saved lives.

"It could have saved lives and the Stretch Duck 7 accident could have been prevented if safety recommendations had been implemented beforehand," said Robert L. Sumwalt, chairman of the NTSB.

Safety recommendation M-00-5 related to the need for sufficient buoyancy for the DUKW, but eight years after it was issued it was classified as closed - unacceptable measure / no response received. The NTSB believes that failure to follow previous safety recommendations regarding reserve buoyancy for DUKWs contributed to the sinking of the Stretch Duck 7.

Similarly, failure to implement the previously issued fixed canopy recommendation following the fatal Miss Majestic DUKW accident in 1999 may have increased the number of deaths due to the sinking of Stretch Duck 7, NTSB said.

“The 1999 NTSB investigation of the other DUKW, the Miss Majestic, showed that the lack of buoyancy of reserves and the dangers of canopies are safety aspects. In 2008, the recommendations from this accident to address these safety issues were classified as "Completed Unacceptable Actions", largely due to inaction. Twenty years on, these ships are at the same risk and that is unacceptable, ”said Sumwalt. "It is imperative that the United States Coast Guard embrace these life-saving recommendations now."

The NTSB stated that the investigation into the sinking of the Stretch Duck 7 has not yet been completed and the likely cause has not yet been determined. However, the information obtained through the investigation justified issuing the safety advisory report before the investigation was completed. The agency will determine the likely cause of this accident upon completion of the investigation.