It has been pointed out before elsewhere on this Board that a few old ships too many have met a similar fate to be just a coincidence.
Of course, most ships under tow to the scrappers (as opposed to those that can get there under their own power) are, by definition, not likely to be in great shape. It doesn't always take much to send them to the bottom, and the general area where Britanis foundered was not once known as the Cape of Storms for nothing.
However, one still has to wonder. The lifeboats may not have been in mind condition, either, and removing them first would kind of make a deliberate sinking look a bit obvious, wouldn't it?
Not that I'm suggesting that the Britanis specifically was sunk on purpose, perish the thought, but there's more than one way for an unwanted old rustbucket to spring a leak...not all of them accidental. Now I know that scrapyard workers also need to eat and care for families, but I kinda believe that those ships that end the way Britanis did are the lucky ones. There's plenty of other hulks that do make it to the breakers, after all.
As I have said before -let the fish have 'em. Well, some of 'em, anyway.
>>However, one still has to wonder. The lifeboats may not have been in mind condition, either, and removing them first would kind of make a deliberate sinking look a bit obvious, wouldn't it? <<
Not really. When a ship is hauled off to the breakers, it's not at all unusual for a hull to be stripped down of anything useful or simply desirable before it's sold off. The vessel may very well have been in lay-up for years and lifeboats may or may not be removed from other ships.
As Matthew noted, ships towed off for scrapping are rarely in the greatest shape to begin with and the Cape of Good Hope has been killing ships in large quantites for centuries. Even vessels in the best of condition in the prime of their useful service lives. It would be surprising indeed if such losses happened less often in this area.
I doubt that there are as many deliberate founderings as we might think as even a vessel purchased for scrap represents a large capital investment for the buyer. I wouldn't say it never happens if only because a ship may be so loaded down with asbestos, PCB's, lead based paints and other contaminants that scrapping the thing in a way that's legally acceptable would be more costly then "accidentally" losing the ship.