Catamaran wreckage washed up on St Helana Island is not that from the missing TUI Leopard that disappeared in 2015 while under delivery to Thailand, according to a former South African skipper tasked with investigating the matter for the families.
John Titterton, himself a former delivery skipper for TUI, said Robertson & Caine had confirmed the wreckage did not match their vessel design. “I have totally eliminated (the possibility) of that TUI catamaran,” Titterton said. “I have been in touch with the design team at R&C and they have confirmed my thoughts – it is definitely not one of their designs.”
Titterton was sent about 20 wreckage images by a contact on St Helana, and tried to match these with a list of five South African boats reported missing over the past five years. “I have eliminated all those five boats that were supplied by Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre Cape Town – all monohulls,” he said, adding that various design elements suggested the vessel may have been of French origin.
“Let me state up front that the wreckage is the bridge-deck of a catamaran. However, Leopard catamarans are designed with square topped internal doors, not round ones that are seen in the wreckage photographs,” Titterton told IBI. “Secondly, the attachment rails of the trampoline on a Leopard catamaran are not mounted directly to the forward section of the bridge-deck - they are attached by a different method directly to a moulded lip, which protrudes about 100mm off the bridge-deck.
“The photographs show the bulkheads and internal compartments using foam core. Robertson & Caine, the manufactures of the lost TUI catamaran, use solid marine ply for all their bulkheads and internal partitions - not foam core.”
“Lastly, the wreckage had a small section of anti-fouled hull, showing a red anti-foul where the Leopard 44 lost in the South Indian Ocean on 18 January 2015, with the loss of three lives, had a blue anti-fouling,” he said.
In response to IBI's request for comment this morning, the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre Cape Town said: “We have investigated but nothing concrete has been found linking the wreckage to a specific incident at this stage and the authorities at St Helena Island will investigate further.”
Titterton believes the wreck of the TUI Leopard most likely sank after it was lost while under tow to Cape Town. “The tow just ripped the whole boat apart. The weight of engines will keep it on the bottom,” he said.