Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The gentle art of evasion

Anxious as ever to alleviate our concerns about the formal investigation into the sinking of the Gaul, we have continued to press the DfT for their views on the technical paper that we had provided and their scientific arguments for dismissing this evidence of a design fault on the Gaul.
The reply from the DfT eventually came (we have published it HERE) and it states:
The report to which your e-mails refers is a document without attribution from a named individual with recognised qualifications and cannot be considered to be either new and important evidence or grounds for suspecting a miscarriage of justice under this Section.” (i.e. Section 269 to the Merchant Shipping Act 1995)
The above paragraph gives a gentle hint, from the Department, that the issues raised in the technical paper do not in fact constitute new evidence; so we will take this as our cue to publish a fragment from one of the items of correspondence, now in our possession, which can, perhaps, shed some light on this matter:
The fragment reproduced above indicates that, even before the RFI, a number of governmental experts, with recognised qualifications and experience, considered the design and construction of the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul to be a cause for concern and advised accordingly.
However, the DfT’s ambiguous reply presents us with an intriguing contradiction: if the design fault theory is not new evidence, then the DfT no longer needs to check it -this must have been already discussed in the past, and the reasons for its dismissal known and capable of being shared with the public.
Otherwise, now that we, together with the DfT, have finally come to the conclusion that this was not new evidence, should we not wonder whether a miscarriage of justice might have occurred?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

E-petition

An e-petition has been lodged at No.10, requesting the PM to:

"To instruct the Secretary of State for Transport to examine recently revealed evidence regarding the loss of the trawler Gaul, as per the requirements of the 1995 Merchant Shipping Act, para. 269.-(1), and either decide to re-open the formal investigation or present clear technical arguments for dismissing this evidence. To introduce legislation aimed to safeguard the independence of maritime accident investigations from political and commercial influence."
If you support the goals of this petition and do not consider it a risky business or an exercise in futility, please add your signature on the form that is published at:
(We will be signing it shortly. >:-))

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Spelling it out

Those who are interested in a more inclusive and incisive summary of the Gaul case and its latest developments can read the article published on a New Zealand news website: The Scoop, optimistically entitled: The Sinking Of The Trawler Gaul – Case Reopened.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Shiptalk.com - the world's leading seafarer's portal - have kindly published some of our comments on their site. These and other interesting articles can be accessed at:

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Design Defect


For a pictorial explanation of the design defect on the Gaul, please follow this link: http://webzoom.freewebs.com/inconvenientcitizen/Gaul%20design%20fault.pdf

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What is this all about?



The Hull trawler Gaul sank in 1974 with the loss of all 36 crew. The wreck was located in 1997, surveyed in 1998 and 2002; and, in 2004, a formal investigation concluded that the vessel had capsized due to flooding through the duff and offal chutes, which had all been left open by the crew.
The panel tasked with conducting the formal investigation were prepared to consider a multitude of other possible causes for the loss of the vessel, including the most spectacular:
… seizure, scuttling, fire, collision, explosion, missile attack, torpedo attack, striking a mine, icing, cargo shift, structural failure, grounding, snagging a seabed cable or a submarine…
But not an obvious design defect in the construction and arrangement of the vessel’s waste disposal chutes!!
We can now disclose that the design fault that has been discussed at length on these pages is not in fact new evidence. This had been revealed to the government some time ago, in fact, prior to the MAIB’s underwater survey in 2002.
And the government is still, even now, unwilling to discuss this alternative - what are their motives?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Comments from MAIB

We have received a response from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch. Please see HERE.
Nose-thumbing

As the reply from the DfT (see HERE) failed to reveal the scientific arguments behind the Department's decision to disregard 'new' evidence of a design fault on the Gaul, and to ignore calls for re-opening the investigation, I telephoned the Treasury Solicitor to find out his latest views on the subject.
Two months after he had become aware of the evidence in question (so as not to say four years), the Treasury Solicitor still appeared incredulous towards our claim that the findings of the RFI were unsound, and professed, once again, his unshaken belief in the merits of the formal investigation.
Showing that he was far too wordly-wise to be driven down a conversational cul-de-sac, my interlocutor skilfully managed to avoid either accepting our suggestions or providing technical counter-arguments by way of rebuttal.
And, to prove that he had more than one arrow in his advocatorial bow, he now informed me that the criticism we had expressed towards the RFI could not be taken into consideration in the absence of an official written submission (i.e. in paper format) by the author and proper reinforcement by the scientific community - requirements which would obviously delay matters.
Impishly enjoying laying down these obstructions, the Treasury Solicitor went on to give the impression that the Attorney General's office was not normally in the business of examining new evidence and facilitating the establishment of the truth in public inquiries, unless forced to do so under group pressures.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Do you have any problem with the truth?


LISTEN HERE

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New Parliamentary Questions and Answers (part 2.)

1 Nov 2006
FV Gaul
Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will examine recent evidence and decide whether the formal investigation into the loss of the FV Gaul should be re-opened. [97993]
Dr. Ladyman: The Re-opened formal investigation into the loss of the FV Gaul was
conducted with unprecedented thoroughness. The evidence was scrutinised by leading experts in the fields of oceanography, naval architecture and engineering
There is no reason to doubt the outcome of the expert analysis that led to the RFI’s conclusions, and consequently there is no reason to reopen the investigation.
.......................................................................................................
Asked the same question by us, the DfT send us the following answer in their letter dated 7.11.06:
The investigation was conducted with unprecedented thoroughness on behalf of the FV Gaul’s crew, her master and mate, and the Department for Transport (DfT). The evidence – which included video footage of the wreck, as well as new model tests carried out at MARIN in the Netherlands – was scrutinised by leading experts in the fields of oceanography, naval architecture and engineering.
Whilst acknowledging the criticism that has been expressed towards the findings of the RFI, there is no reason to doubt the outcome of the thorough and expert analysis that led to the report’s conclusions and consequently there is no reason to reopen the investigation).
........................................................................................................
Gadfly: The Secretary of State for Transport was, in fact, asked whether or not he was going to examine the recent evidence, which pointed to a design defect in the construction and arrangement of the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul, and decide on the need therefore, of re-opening the formal investigation.
Dodging the actual question, the minister refers instead to the other, former, evidence, which was presented during the 2004 formal investigation, and which, he states, was scrutinised by leading experts
*.
The minister knows very well that as long as there is no official appraisal of the evidence that we have provided, there is no need to reconsider the outcome of the Re-opened Formal Investigation.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
* As a matter of interest, it should be explained that the evidence that was admitted during the 2004 formal investigation was collected and reviewed by the Treasury Solicitor (who acted under instructions from the Attorney General) prior to being brought to the attention of the retained experts.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
***
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.
''The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.
''The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master—that's all.'

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Letter from the Department for Transport

We have recently received an emailed reply from the Department for Transport (DfT):

http://www.freewebs.com/inconvenientcitizen/dftletter7nov.htm

The reply was of unattributed authorship and did not bear the usual DfT logo and header. Anyway, we assume that its contents would have been given some form of ministerial approval prior to dispatch.
The response was entirely as expected, apart from the disappointment of having taken nearly eight weeks to draw up.
The reply fails to address the design fault issue that was put forward in our paper, but merely reiterates the conclusions of the RFI. The DfT also carefully avoids to comment on whether this fault in the duff and offal chutes has been examined (either prior, during or subsequent to the 2004 investigation).
Now, we would like, in our turn, to comment on some of the points that are made by the Department:
“The investigation was conducted with unprecedented thoroughness………. The evidence……… was scrutinised by leading experts in the fields of oceanography, naval architecture and engineering.”
Yes, the investigation was thorough, but not consistently so. The critical areas – i.e. the duff and offal chutes - were not examined in depth.
“…….the FV Gaul and her sister ships were built under Lloyd’s approval, with the same duff and offal chutes design. On the sister ships these chutes survived under similar conditions and were retained until the end of their service.”
Ipse dixit. However, we don’t quite accept that the validity of a claim automatically follows from the authority of its source.
As to the sister vessels, the Department’s argument, which suggests that the design was satisfactory, is not sound. Our posting of 8 November (below) explains why.
18.17 … it is important to note that although both chutes were found to be open both in way of the non-return flap and the internal top cover, there is no known mechanical reason why this was so. Both could have been closed or, if jammed, could have been freed. In any event the top lids exhibited nothing during the 2002 survey to prevent them from being closed and secured using the butterfly clips.
The design and operation of the chutes was therefore considered by the RFI.”
The information given to the DfT shows that there are credible alternative reasons, for the covers and flaps to be open.
Yes, the design and operation of the chutes was considered, but only in passing and not along the lines suggested in our paper.
“Whilst acknowledging the criticism that has been expressed towards the findings of the RFI, there is no reason to doubt the outcome of the thorough and expert analysis that led to the report’s conclusions and consequently there is no reason to reopen the investigation.”
We disagree. Reasons for re-examining the outcome of the formal investigation are presented in our paper, which is published online at:
and it was emailed to DfT on the 4/9/06.
The paper is detailed; it includes pictorial explanations and evidence of shortfalls in the RFI.
Here is an extract from the 1995 Merchant Shipping Act, which will remind the Minister that the possibility of getting it wrong, the first or even second time around, has been anticipated and provided for in law:
Re-hearing of and appeal from investigations

269.—(1) Where a formal investigation has been held under section 268 the Secretary of State may order the whole or part of the case to be re-heard, and shall do so—
(a) if new and important evidence which could not be produced at the investigation has been discovered; or
(b) if there appear to the Secretary of State to be other grounds for suspecting that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred.
“In closing, I would like to echo the sentiments expressed in the RFI’s overview, that the crew of the Gaul should now be left to rest in peace undisturbed by the speculation created by their dramatic disappearance.”
The government’s argumentum ad misericordiam to defend the outcome of the RFI is inappropriate and, considering that this put the blame squarely upon the victims, rather cynical.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

New Parliamentary Questions and Answers (part 1.)

1 November 2006

Torremolinos Convention
Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to ratify the International Marine Organisation’s Torremolinos Convention. [97992]
Dr. Ladyman: European Directive 97/70/EC implemented a harmonised safety regime based on the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol. The safety standards were subsequently enhanced by Directive 2002/35/EC. The Government consider these standards exceed the requirements of the Protocol and that its ratification is therefore no longer necessary.
Gadfly: It is suggested that there are three reasons why the UK should attach more importance to the 1977 Convention and 1993 Protocol:
1. Safety: There are about 24,000 fatalities in the world fishing industry annually. While the UK fishing fleet meets the safety provisions that are required by the Torremolinos Convention, failure to ratify this Convention at the International level contributes to the fact that sub-standard, foreign flagged vessels and fishermen will continue to be lost.
2. Economic: The UK‘s fishermen have to operate within a regime that is tightly regulated and this has a price. They also have to compete in a world market in which unregulated vessels, having lower overheads, are also able to land fish and this both reduces fish stocks and undermines market prices.
3. Environmental: It is important that fish stocks are regulated effectively and fairly. In this respect, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU) continues to be a major problem and one that is contributing to the collapse of fish stocks both in the EU and globally. Ratification and implementation of the Torremolinos Convention is considered by both the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) and the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) to be a key plank in the fight against IUU.
As the Minister advises, the UK has already implemented the EU safety regime, based on Torremolinos, which governs safety matters within the UK’s fishing fleet. Ratification of this Convention at the IMO is a necessary formality that will impose no additional costs on the UK Fishing Industry.
More Parliamentary Questions, Answers and Comments to come...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sister Vessels

Yesterday we received a letter from the DfT purporting to answer our previous queries. We will publish it on this site and comment on its contents shortly. For starters, we are addressing the department’s inference that there was no design defect on the Gaul, because the sister vessels, with the same design, did not sink.
“… it should be remembered that the FV Gaul and her sister ships were built under Lloyd’s approval, with the same duff and offal chutes design. On the sister ships these chutes survived under similar conditions and were retained until the end of their service.” (Letter from the DfT dated 07.11.06)
The above comments imply that the duff and offal chutes gave satisfactory trouble free service throughout the lives of the sister vessels. A closer look into this matter shows that, in fact, this is not quite the case:
The Gaul had three sister vessels: Arab, Kelt and Kurd. These vessels are still in service, but none is currently working as a trawler.
Available records show:
1. That the Kappin (ex Arab) is currently working as a fish processing factory freezer ship off the Greenland coast.
The Arab was sold in 1983 and converted into a support depot ship for submersibles; in 1984 it was converted back into a stern trawler. The vessel continued to work as a stern trawler until early 2006 when it was converted into a fish factory ship.
A very good photo of this vessel can be viewed at:
http://www.shipspotting.com/modules/myalbum/photo.php?lid=235426
The vessel was visited in 2003, by the retained experts for the RFI for the purposes of obtaining information that could be of use to the Investigation. The vessels crew were also quizzed at that time (ref. Technical paper presented by the retained experts ‘The loss of the MFV Gaul’ - http://www.bctq.com/isleman.html)
“As part of the RFI, a party visited the FV KAPPIN, a sister vessel to GAUL still fishing from the Faroes. Discussion with the crew revealed that flooding of the factory deck was a recurrent problem. This had been dealt with in part by installing deep well pumps and blanking off the forward offal chute. Even so, crew recounted serious flooding incidents as a direct result of water coming through the aft duff chute. Fortunately this was never catastrophic.”
Does this mean that the crew of the Kappin have also been leaving the chute flaps and covers open?
2. That the Bergen Surveyor (ex Kelt) is currently working as a seismic survey vessel for Norwegian owners.
The Kelt was sold in 1982 and initially converted into a support depot ship for submersibles; in 1997 it was converted into a seismic survey vessel.
A very good photo of this vessel can be viewed at:
http://www.shipspotting.com/modules/myalbum/photo.php?lid=63966
It is most likely that the duff and offal chute openings would have been removed at the time of time of its initial conversion in 1982 (support vessels do not need arrangements for the discharge of duff and offal). The picture shows that, in its current guise, the chute openings are no longer present.
3. That the Southern Surveyor (ex Kurd) is currently working as a marine research vessel and is owned by the Australian Government. The factory deck on this vessel has been converted into a laboratory.
The Kurd was sold in 1983 and initially converted into a support depot ship for submersibles; in 1988 it was converted into a research vessel.
A very good photo of this vessel can be viewed at: http://www.marine.csiro.au/nationalfacility/images/1shipside_lge.jpg
It is most likely that the duff and offal chutes would have been removed at the time of its initial conversion in 1983. The picture above shows that, in its current guise, the chute openings are no longer present.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Formal Investigation

John Prescott (upper) & Justice David Steel (lower)


Attorney Generall- Lord Goldsmith

We will be responding soon to the letter received from the Department for Transport

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Sergeant Schultz Syndrome

I have been in touch with a senior Maritime Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) source, who had been involved in the preparation of the Gaul case prior to the 2004 formal investigation.
Asked whether the MAIB had provided information to the wreck commissioner (i.e justice david steel) in respect of the patent design defect in the construction and arrangement of the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul, he would say neither Yes nor No.
As to the pre-investigation deliberations that had taken place between MAIB and other experts on the subject of the faults in the construction of the chutes he had no clear recollection.
Whilst in other cases the MAIB would collect evidence and provide analysis on the causes and circumstances of a marine accident, in the Gaul case, I am told, the MAIB provided the documentary evidence, but left the government’s retained experts to formulate their own conclusions. The MAIB, my interlocutor said, was in a difficult situation vis-รก- vis the Gaul case.
I wonder why.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Questions on answers or How to communicate economically

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the total cost of investigations and inquiries into the loss of the F. V. Gaul in 2006 prices. [96789]
Dr. Ladyman: The total cost to the Department of investigations and inquiries into the loss of the FV Gaul was £6.5 million.

No adjustment has been made for 2006 prices.

Gadfly: Perhaps Dr Ladyman should know that the Original Formal Investigation was concluded in 1974.

There appear to be some items missing from the above list. The total costs to the Department should also have included:

1. the costs of the stability and seakeeping investigations and model tests carried out for the Department by NMI and YARD between 1975 and 1978 estimated at £75,000 (in 1976 prices)

2. the costs of the two reports by Roger Clarke published in 2000. Stated to have cost the Department £50,000 at that time

3. additionally, the costs of 32 years of governmental time that has not been included in the above (political staff, technical, clerical and administrative staff, MOD, legal etc) - £1m at todays prices would not be an unreasonable evaluation!

If a simple compound interest calculation is carried out on the costs detailed above, using historical Bank Rate indices, then a figure of £10m at 2006 prices is obtained!

See also: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/columnists/columnists.html?in_article_id=371759&in_page_id=1772&in_author_id=244

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made towards the implementation of the formal safety recommendations arising from the F. V. Gaul Re-opened Formal Investigation. [96790]

Dr. Ladyman: It is considered that, as far as is reasonably practicable, the recommendations have been implemented.

Gadfly: The four formal safety recommendations have not been implemented.

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether any evidence of a design fault in the construction and arrangement of the duff and offal chutes on the trawler F. V. Gaul was made available to the Wreck Commissioner during the 2004 investigation. [96794]

Dr. Ladyman: The Marine Accident Investigation Branch provided the inquiry with a copy of a full set of technical drawings for the vessel, a number of which detailed the design of these chutes. These drawings were reviewed by the technical experts and the expert representing the Department for Transport referred to these drawings in the production of the document “Notes on the duff and offal chutes”, submitted to the Re-opened Formal Investigation. These notes included comments on the design of the chutes and the potential design inadequacies.

Gadfly: First of all, the question that had been asked was not answered (i.e. was any evidence of a design fault made available to the Wreck Commissioner?). A yes or no answer would have sufficed.
Secondly, The Marine Accident Investigation Branch would provide, as they normally do and as the Treasury Solicitor recently confessed, “considerable assistance” to the Wreck Commissioner. They would therefore provide much more than a set of old drawings.
Thirdly, the “Notes on the duff and offal chutes”, only commented on a presumed design deficiency in relation to the difficulty of maintenance of the non-return flaps.So, in a couple of sentences, Dr Ladyman implies that either the MAIB performance was poor, or the MAIB witheld evidence, or the retained experts were unable to recognize an obvious design fault in the construction and arrangement of the duff and offal chutes.

***

“When you hear a denial of knowledge or responsibility, rate it carefully on the plausibility scale. The real culprit is usually at the top, as his nose will eventually demonstrate”. (Patrick Brown, 1999, Plausibility and Pinocchio)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Equivocation and other fallacies

The Secretary of State for Transport has provided answers to the Parliamentary questions tabled last week. His answers are both evasive and incorrect.

More about these later...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Aiming but not quite hitting

Our relations with the Government are deteriorating.
We have been trying to extract a comment from the DfT, on the vexed issue of the Gaul investigation, since the 4th of September. Up to this moment, no comment or justification for the lack of it has been offered.
Nevertheless, DfT's statement on their service standards, which is published on their website, reads:
"The Department is always pleased to receive comments about its work. We are happy to answer any queries and supply information about what we do. The services we offer to everyone who contacts us are:
The Department will always try to be helpful.
We will make a note of all comments given to us about our policies, and will make sure they reach the policy officials and Ministers concerned. "
"We aim to reply to emails within 20 working days."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Update

The other day I asked another retained expert the same question: did he identify or see any reference to a design fault, in terms of inadequate strength of the inner covers and possible malfunction of the non-return flaps on the Gaul, within the documentation that had been made available to him during the formal investigation?
He seemed unsure about that...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

"If I take refuge in ambiguity, I assure you that it's quite conscious" (1)

In a recent message, the Treasury Solicitor writes:You have indicated that in your view the chutes were a design fault. This is your view but appears not to have been accepted as such by any of the retained experts.

Having contacted one of the retained experts, I learned that the design fault they had considered was in fact related to the difficulty of maintenance of the non-return flaps (2) (3), and that they had not identified or even seen, within the documentation that had been made available to them, any reference to a design fault in terms of inadequate strength of the inner covers and possible malfunction of the non-return flaps.
There is definitely a difference in perception here. Could some occlusion of the communication lines between those involved in the 2004 investigation be the explanation for that?
Anyway, that the vessel had a design fault in the construction and arrangement of the duff and offal chutes is an engineering fact (see the technical report on our website).
Why this has not also become a legal fact, is something that should be explained – plainly and without procrastination.
_____________________________________________________
(1) Kingman Brewster

(2)
Concluding remarks from Mr Meeson (Investigation transcript) suggesting answers to the formal questions:
“………Although the design of the non-return flap was deficient, in that it was liable to seize over time and had no real means whereby it could be maintained, proper use……..”


(3) This was also questioned in the technical report published on our website:
http://www.freewebs.com/inconvenientcitizen/fulltechnicalreportpdf.htm.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

For those who have tried to contact us without success I have a message:

Big Brother is not only watching, but also interfering.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

As I write these lines, Mr Laurance O'Dea (the Treasury Solicitor) is investigating.
He is looking into, I am told, the evidence regarding the design defect in the construction of the Gaul and the alternative explanation for the loss of the vessel, which were published on our website (www.freewebs.com/inconvenientcitizen) and mentioned in the Lancashire press.
Why did this not happen during the 2004 formal investigation is something that may also be worth investigating.
Anyway, we hope that, this time round, our concerns will receive due attention and we wish Mr Laurance O'Dea good luck.
The Correspondence page on our website: www.freewebs.com/inconvenientcitizen has been updated.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Improbable impossibility

An extract from the Report of the Re-opened Formal Investigation into the loss of the FV Gaul:

"21.1 What was or were the probable cause or causes of the loss of the GAUL?
A sudden and rapid accumulation of water on the factory deck, (...)
21.2 What possible causes can be eliminated by the evidence which is now available?
All other causes including, seizure, scuttling, fire, collision, explosion, missile attack, torpedo attack, striking a mine, icing, cargo shift,structural failure, grounding, snagging a seabed cable or a submarine.
21.3 What other possible causes remain open?
None."

By definition, probable is something likely to happen but not certain. What is not absolutely certain leaves room for other possibilities. Therefore other possibilities (i.e."all other causes") cannot be eliminated.
***
"There is no use in trying," said Alice; "one can't believe impossible things.""I dare say you haven't much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." (Excerpt from "Alice in Wonderland")
***

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A press article slipped though through the net: "Gaul tragedy: new probe call" - interesting read and update.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The research into the outcome of the Gaul formal inquiry was carried out by a naval architect who is currently employed by the UK government (i.e. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency).
For some time now, he and his family have been subjected to close monitoring and various acts of intimidation.
It is, of course, regrettable that a challenge to the results of this inquiry could have serious implications for those directly involved in the case, but, considering also the implications of leaving things as they are, such regrets cannot be a good enough reason for remaining silent.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

"18.17... it is now necessary to focus on the important and central feature of the vessel in this case, the duff and offal chutes. In this connection, it is important to note that although both chutes were found on the wreck to be open both in way of the non-return flap and the internal top cover, there is no known mechanical reason why this was so." (Report of the Re-opened Formal Investigation into the Loss of the FV Gaul)

(!)

Friday, September 15, 2006

The "Accidents and Agenda" report published by the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2005 explores the ways in which the processes of accident investigation may be improved with the aim of preventing the occurrence of similar incidents in the future.
The Scientific Activist (Archives): political interference

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Critical comments on the findings of the Re-Opened Formal Investigation (RFI) into the loss of the trawler Gaul


Following a careful study of the report into the loss of the trawler Gaul published in December 2004, at the end of the RFI, (http://www.fv-gaul.org.uk/), a number of questions and objections as to its content and conclusions arise.

In essence, the inquiry concluded that human error on the part of the crew, shore maintenance staff and the vessel's owners was the cause of the vessel's loss.

In this post, it is suggested that what actually led to loss of the vessel was a design fault in the construction and arrangements of the duff and offal chute openings and their means of closure.

The RFI conclusions in brief

  1. That the Gaul capsized and sank in severe weather following undetected seawater ingress into the factory space. The water entered this space through two hull side chute openings[1].
  2. That each of these two hull side chute openings had two means of closure: an outer non-return flap valve and a hinged inner cover; and that both of these closures were open prior to, and during the loss of the vessel.
  3. That, as a result of inadequate shore-side maintenance, both outer flap valves had become seized in the open position due to corrosion in their hinges, and that they had been in this condition since the time of the vessel’s departure from Hull, 16 days prior to the accident;
  4. That the hinged inner covers had been left open and unsecured by the crew; and
  5. That, had the crew closed the inner covers, this would have been sufficient to prevent the loss of the vessel.

....................................................................................................

[1] These chutes facilitated the overboard discharge of duff and offal waste resulting from fish processing operations within the factory space.

.....................................................................................................

The design fault

The duff and offal chute openings in the hull of the vessel were provided with a two-barrier closure system: an outer non-return flap (the strength barrier) and an inner cover (the leakage barrier), and these were both required to be closed in order to maintain the hull’s full watertight integrity.

Unfortunately, it can be demonstrated that the outer non-return flap arrangement, which was present onboard the Gaul was such that, in certain circumstances, the sea could act directly on the exposed free edge of this outer flap and push it open.
In such circumstancess, if the inner covers had also been open or had subsequently failed[2] , the seawater would have been able to enter the vessel unhindered.

....................................................................................................

[2] It should be mentioned here that the inner covers were neither designed nor intended to withstand, on their own, the forces of the sea

....................................................................................................

For a pictorial explanation of the design defect on the Gaul, please follow this link: http://webzoom.freewebs.com/inconvenientcitizen/Gaul%20design%20fault.pdf

This shows that a slightly different design arrangement of the outer non-return flaps would have prevented the rapid flooding of the Gaul, even with the inner covers left fully open.

Possible causes for the loss of the Gaul

The Re-opened Formal Investigation came to the conclusion that the outer non-return flaps in the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul had been seized in the open position since the time of the vessel’s departure from port - this conclusion having been drawn from the fact that the flaps were found to be in the open position during the 2002 underwater survey.

The fact that the inner covers were also found to be open during this survey was ascribed to the crew’s failure to close them.

In his closing remarks the judge stated firmly that "no other possible causes remained open".

The document published HERE shows that not only was this incorrect but that there are other more plausible explanations for the loss of the vessel:

Other aspects and questions

Linked to the above issues, there are also a number of elements within the formal report which appear incorrect:

1. When defining the scope of ship classification, the formal report failed to include the Classification Societies’ responsibility for watertight integrity. The definition within the report reads:

Class/classification = covers the development and worldwide implementation of published rules and regulations which will provide for: 1. The structural strength and scantlings of all essential parts of the hull and its appendages; ......”
While the definition as per IACS – Quality management System requirements manual states in respect of “Classification service” point 1. that “The structural strength (and where necessary the watertight integrity of) all essential parts of the exterior boundaries of the ship or offshore installation and its appendages.”

Why was the alteration of this international definition necessary in the formal report?

2. The definitions provided in the formal report for weathertight and watertight properties read as follows:
Watertight – impervious to the passage of water, as applied to ship’s structure, closures and joints. A watertight opening is so constructed that when closed, it will prevent water under pressure from passing through, and normally incorporates a gasket.”
Weathertight – capable of being sealed to exclude water in normal sea conditions. A weathertight opening is typically designed to keep out rain and spray only.”

Whereas watertight and weathertight are terms that have agreed International definitions such that items which are categorised and accepted as watertight or weathertight need to meet strict requirements for construction, strength, material thickness, gasketing, hinges and securing clips (these are generally set by National or International standard).
Watertight means capable of preventing the passage of water through the structure in either direction with a proper margin of resistance under the pressure due to the maximum head of water, which it might have to sustain.”Weathertight means that in any sea conditions water will not penetrate into the ship.”
(SOLAS 1974 as amended, 1966 Load Line Convention and Torremolinos Convention 1977)

Why were the definitions for watertight and weathertight used in the report incorrect?

Thus, a weathertight fitting should be designed to withstand, in any sea conditions, water pressure and prevent the passage of water from one side only.
A watertight fitting, on the other hand, must, when closed, prevent the passage of water through an opening no matter which side is under pressure.

Since the adequacy and functioning of the ship’s duff and offal chute fittings was central to the investigation, has not their confusing definition been a serious failing?

Why have the inner covers of the Gaul’s duff and offal chutes been categorised throughout the report as being of a ‘watertight’ standard, whilst, in reality, the construction, strength and arrangement of these inner covers would not even meet the requirements that would be expected for ‘weathertight’ closures?

Watertight and weathertight fittings generally make use of rubber gaskets and clips (or bolts) to seal steel-to-steel joints and prevent the passage of water. Watertight fittings need many more bolts/clips than weathertight fittings.
The principle shortfall in the strength of the chute’s inner covers is related to their direction of opening when considered in conjunction with external sea pressure loading (full sea loading on the covers would only be resisted by 3 butterfly nuts, instead of the overlapped gasketed steel plating arrangement that is normally associated with a weathertight joint).

3. It is also stated in the report that: “it is not clear how the spindle could have been repaired or replaced should the need arise without burning off the balance weight from the connecting arms”
However, the construction drawings for the duff and offal chutes show quite clearly that the hinge, spindle, balance weight and connecting arms can be readily dismantled for maintenance, repairs or replacements. (?!)

4. Is it not the case that, if the inquiry had found that the Gaul had sunk due to a design defect, the victims’ families would have been entitled to compensation?

Extract from The Merchant Shipping (Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims) (Amendment) Order 1998:

" 1. The limits of liability for claims other than those mentioned in Article 7, arising on any distinct occasion, shall be calculated as follows:
(a) in respect of claims for loss of life or personal injury,
(i) 2 million Units of Account for a ship with a tonnage not exceeding 2,000 tons,”


This would amount today to approx. 3m USD per life lost (1 SDR = 1.48727 USD)

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For those who wish to read the full technical argument behind the above points, please visit the following site:

http://www.freewebs.com/inconvenientcitizen

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