Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Letter from the Department for Transport

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


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.

No comments: