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Multimillion Fight Over HMS Bounty’s Sinking

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) - The ship from 1962 Oscar winner "Mutiny on the Bounty" sank during Hurricane Sandy because it was unseaworthy, an insurance company that paid out $5.1 million says in Federal Court.

Acadia Insurance Co. describes the HMS Bounty as a 52-year-old enlarged replica of the 1787 Royal Navy sailing vessel of the same name.

The three-masted wooden ship sank off the coast of North Carolina during Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29, 2012, while headed to St. Petersburg, Fla., according to the complaint. Two crewmembers died and others were injured, Acadia says.

Alleging bad faith and breach of warranty in a federal complaint filed Thursday, Acadia says the ship's owner, HMS Bounty Organization, lied about the vessel's seaworthiness, thus nullifying its insurance policy.

"Defendants failed to disclose the Bounty's unseaworthiness," the 41-page complaint states.

Even in calm water and while docked, "so much water leaked into Bounty's hull that the bilges had [to] [sic] be routinely pumped out at least twice a day when at sea, bilge pumping was required more often," Acadia says.

The American Bureau of Shipping allegedly found 19 deficiencies that needed corrections, including its watertight integrity, after surveying the boat in November 2010.

HMS Bounty Org never sealed holes that the bureau identified, however, in an effort to save money, the complaint states.

When the ship sailed to England a year later, British authorities who inspected the boat found that it was operated in excess of its allowable tonnage, the insurer says.

Rotting wooden frames and planks sheathing the hull was discovered when the ship was dry-docked at a Maine shipyard in September and October 2012, according to the complaint.

The ship was refloated on Oct. 17, 2012, Acadia says. Four days later it allegedly left the Maine shipyard for New London on its way to Florida, where it was to be a tourist attraction for the winter.

Acadia says the ship's captain knew Hurricane Sandy was barreling down but sailed off anyway.

HMS Bounty took on water; the bilge pumps were ineffective; and a contaminated fuel clogged the filters, causing pumps to shut down, according to the complaint.

"The untrained and inexperienced crew could not operate the portable pumps, which they had not been trained to do, and the lack of ventilation of gas fumes from the untested gasoline engine pumps made the crew sick," the insurer says.

Broken radios prevented the crew from communicating with the Coast Guard, and "failure to train for and conduct evacuation drills prevented timely and appropriate evacuation," the insurance company says.

"Bounty's sinking was not a fortuitous, covered loss, but was a direct result of defendant's reckless acts which directly caused the deaths of two people and injuries to others," according to the complaint.

The insurance company paid $5.1 million for the loss, but now wants its money back.

It is represented by Lawrence Bowles with Mclaughlin Stern of Manhattan.

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