Despite media speculation, it seems weight gain wasn’t actually the cause of the plight of the Dutch workboat ''Rhodina'' which sank as it went about its duties around the Dutch city of Groningen.

‘Rhodina’, before the incident

‘Rhodina’, before the incident

The municipal waterways vessel had been performing routine maintenance in early June on a town bridge when the boat began to take on water: the crew managed to get the boat to the bank and jump off before it submerged. Salvage was carried out by a lift from a heavy-duty crane that could reach the waterway from the nearby road and Rhodina was taken to the local boatyard, partly for repair, partly to establish the cause of the sinking.

However, the incident was followed by an amount of conjecture over its possible causes, especially over the amount of new kit onboard: according to local media company RTV Noord it seems Groningen’s Environmental Department had even nicknamed the boat - somewhat precipitately - ‘Submarine’. The issue was that Rhodina had been extensively overhauled during the winter and equipped with a scissor lift, pressure washer, generator and crane, further the water and diesel tanks had also been moved. Therefore the boat’s stability had come under suspicion and some serious questions about responsibility seemed to hang in the air.

So, was stability compromised? Well, yes, and no.

According to Groningen City communications advisor Josee Jansen, the incident was mostly caused by heavy rain. The shutters at the front of the boat had lost their waterproofing, so rainwater “came over the bow and through the shutters into the front hold,” she explained. Once inside, Rhodina’s layout allowed the water to flow to the aft end of the vessel. “The result was that the buoyancy diminished,” which in turn led to the boat shipping a critical amount of water.

Interestingly, the remedial work has taken on more than repair of the compartments and reproofing the shutters: it is making sure that the boat won’t get compromised in this way again. Ms Jansen explained that the edge of the boat will be raised to prevent water coming in, and the buoyancy of the boat has been improved by making Rhodina a little broader in the beam by the addition of four separate air chambers.

At time of writing, the yard is busy with the final round of activities and Ms Jansen said: “We expect Rhodina to be back into the water soon.”

Not under it.

By Stevie Knight