Northern Marine Launch Capsizes, Concerns Raised
The launch of Northern Marine’s newest 90-footer (27.43-meter) on May 18 received the type of media attention no one wants. The yacht capsized upon launch, and some of the build staff were injured. Now more bad news comes in the form of employees possibly facing job uncertainty.
The yacht, named Baden (“Blood Baron”), is seen here just prior to the capsizing. Northern Marine is owned by New World Boat Builders. According to PassageMaker magazine, on May 20, the management sent all employees home. The magazine states about 50 people were affected. We reached out to Wes Fridell, a spokesperson for New World Boat Builders, for comment. He did not respond by press time. However, at least one employee was still at work as of late last week, answering the main phone. What is known is that the launch on May 18 went terribly wrong. Video footage shows that when Northern Marine maneuvered the dolly holding Baden into the water, she began listing to port and then fully rolled. The same launch ramp has been ued for previous Northern Marine launches. Owned by the city of Anacortes, Washington, it reportedly has not posed trouble for the shipyard previously. When Baden began rolling, five Northern Marine build staff were aboard. According to local media, they told police that they headed to the engine room to adjust ballast. The engine room began flooding, however. First responders smashed a port to pull them out. One of the employees told a local TV station that he and the others didn’t know why the megayacht rolled. Fridell, who was on site for the launch, told the station the same. He is quoted as also saying that “the cradle had been inspected and is sound. And then we reinspected everything before we proceeded.”
Baden was righted on May 19. As is the norm for cases like this, New World Boat Builders is incurring the cost. Fridell told local media that salt water damaged all electrical systems and furnishings, but the hull suffered only scratches. The megayacht has not been hauled from the water, however. She remains held in place by a salvage crane as of press time. The Coast Guard has not yet given permission to move her. The capsizing is under investigation by the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Aaron Pufal, who was the build captain until last December, has been blogging about the project since 2012. He blogged again a few days after Baden capsized. He states that last year, he raised concerns about her stability. Pufal says he therefore commissioned Roddan Engineering to perform a stability study. In his blog post, Pufal shares what he says is the report from Roddan Engineering, dated July 19, 2013. It indicates that the yacht was lighter than other Northern Marine 85s, which were from the same model series as Baden. The alleged report reads, “It is recommended that partial ballasting be done currently, with final ballasting for trim and desired waterline to be performed at launch.” The alleged report also states, “It is recommended that an Inclining Experiment, supervised by Roddan Engineering Ltd., be performed at launch (and after final ballasting) to confirm the stability estimates and determine exact VCG (vertical Center of Gravity) and LCG (Longitudinal Center of Gravity).”
In his blog post, Pufal wonders whether his recommendations were considered prior to launch, and why the capsize happened. “Why didn’t the new project management team heed my warning or the stability study and my concerns? What could have been done to prevent this terrible mess? In the pictures of this accident that I have seen, why are the wheels on the dolly compressed so much that the tires are flat? Did someone not notice this? Why didn’t any one stop the launch if there were warning signs with the dolly?”