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Failure of plating on hull cited in sinking of Gloucester fishing vessel, federal investigators say

The sinking of a Gloucester fishing vessel last summer was likely caused by the failure of plating along the hull, the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday.

The vessel Grace Marie was moving to fishing grounds on July 8, 2022, when its engine room started flooding, the NTSB said in a statement.

The seven-person crew couldn’t remove the water with the vessel’s bilge pumping system, officials said, so they abandoned ship and were rescued from a life raft by another boat.

The Grace Marie eventually sank, with a total loss of $650,000. No one was hurt.

Officials said the external area of the hull along the keel and under the engine room was covered with steel doubler plating in an effort to cover and reinforce areas of deteriorated steel. The plating had been installed eight to 10 years before the sinking, the NTSB said.

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According to the agency, “uninspected commercial fishing vessels” like the Grace Marie commonly use doubler plating to repair and reinforce underwater hull sections. Such repairs can cause “increased stress” and make it difficult “to assess the true condition of the hull,” the NTSB said.

The NTSB said it identified the probable cause of the vessel’s demise as uncontrolled flooding of the engine room from an “undetermined source,” likely the failed doubler-plated hull below the engine room.

“Although doubler plating can be used as a temporary repair solution, it is not generally suitable as a permanent repair for a vessel’s hull,” said an excerpt from the final NTSB report on the sinking, dated June 16. “Vessel owners should crop out wasted steel on the hull and replace it by inserting new plating instead of covering it up with doubler plating.”


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.