Saturday, June 30, 2007

‘Bringing in all the talent’

More often in politics than in life, a trade-off between scruples and convenience is necessary.
Our old friend, Dr Ladyman, is no longer Minister for Transport.
Our new PM, in his quest for talent, found that no one was better qualified to take Dr Ladyman's place than Ms Rosie Winterton, the ex-Minister for Health and Prezza's buddy.
The choice was exceptional: Ms Winterton's vast experience in shipping and transport matters in general is well known. Besides, as a good friend of John Prescott, she will be very keen, I am sure, to sort out all the problems related to the flawed Gaul Investigation and other serious irregularities, which have been inherited by the DfT since the golden age of Prescott's stewardship of the department.
Blessed are those who try to make the best of two worlds!
UPDATE (5 July 2007): The appointment of a new leading team at DfT gives responsibility for shipping matters to Jim Fitzpatrick MP (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State).
In the seventies, Mr Fitzpatrick used to be a fireman at the London Fire Brigade, and later he became junior minister at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, with the role of Minister for London.
Rosie Winterton has been allocated a number of other responsibilities including: Europe, cycling and WALKING (?!) - but not shipping.
As Minister of State, however, Rosie will be atop the Under-Secretaries’ remit.
Mr Fitzpatrick’s fire-fighting experience may, who knows, come in handy again.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Io, Saturnalia

For more than a year we’ve tried to bring repairs to the flaws of the 2004 Gaul Investigation. For more than a year we’ve been confronted with the insincerity, ineptitude and indifference of those called to sort out the case.
A typical manifestation of the Blair era, the final chapter in the Gaul saga was turned from Greek tragedy into a Roman farce.

Io, Saturnalia, said the Romans, to greet the Solstice festival. For seven days a year, they would reverse the social order; revel in lawlessness and mockery. It was a time when gods were scorned and gambling in public was permitted. The jester wore the emperor’s toga and his orders were obeyed no matter how bizarre. This reversal of roles was, however, only temporary and symbolic – the jester was not free to make any binding decisions, and, at the end of the festival, anything he decreed would be revoked.

When Saturnalia ended, the tomfoolery stopped, everybody returned to their long-established values, and the accustomed order was restored.

Can we likewise expect a come back to normality at the end of our ten years long Saturnalia?

I hope so, but I wouldn’t lay a wager on that.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Another mechanical reason

"18.17... 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 2004 Re-opened Formal Investigation into the Loss of the FV Gaul)
In the paper describing the MAIN DESIGN FAULT on the Gaul, we gave an account of how the closed flaps of the duff and offal chutes on the vessel could have been forced open by the sea at the time of the incident. (You can also see a model of the design fault captured on this VIDEO clip).
Furthermore, the factor tree analysis diagram, published earlier on THIS PAGE, presented a range of alternative explanations, as to how the outer flaps of the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul could have become open and remained in the open position (the RFI having only examined and accepted that the flaps were open, prior to the vessel’s departure from Hull, as a result of corrosion and lack of maintenance).
One of these alternative explanations (i.e. THE SECOND DESIGN FAULT), mentioned in an earlier POST, put forward the possibility that the bolted non-return flap assemblies within the chutes could have become twisted due to wave action and remained open as a result.
Today, we are presenting another alternative explanation, whereby a simple dimensioning error in the shipyard’s construction drawings meant that, if ever the brass gland within the flap hinges was loosened by the operation of the flap, parts of it could have bound together, thus causing the flap to remain seized in the open position.
THIS PAPER gives the details.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The goon squads
(A few more words in addition to an earlier POST)

What has the story of a fishing trawler got to do with the EU? I wondered.
Well, the answer could lie in the fact that the disclosure of one of the more fragrant skeletons in the UK government’s cupboard - an EU insider (a foreign national), in a fit of honesty, explained to me – might harm some very highly placed persons and, in a short chain reaction, blight the very top of the Blair administration.
As Tony Blair was so fervently pro-EU, the EU heartland turned passionately pro-Blair.
Like soldier bees defending their queen against incomers who don’t have the correct hive odour, the EU goon squads (oh yes, they do exist) set out to defend the Cause and remove the threat to those chosen by destiny to lead them to the Promised Land.
The Gaul scandal was, therefore, contained. But only for a while…

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Some of those who have read our previous POST may wonder whether the definitions used in the 2004 Gaul RFI were tailored to suit the conclusions of the investigation or whether they were just an unfortunate mistake that, it so happened, had a serious impact upon the outcome of the inquiry.
We cannot provide an answer in this respect, but we can supply some additional information:
- The definitions for ‘watertight’ and ‘weathertight’ are common knowledge amongst marine professionals, so it would be unreasonable to assume that the panel of experts in the Gaul RFI were not familiar with these classifications.
- Justice David Steel, the Admiralty judge, who conducted the formal investigation into the loss of MV Herald of Free Enterprise (1987), seemed, at the time, to be well aware of the correct meanings of the terms:
“[the term]…Watertight is applied to doors and bulkheads where there is the possibility of water accumulating at either side. Weathertight applies to doors or openings, which are only required to prevent the ingress of water from the side exposed to the weather.”[1]
[1] David Steel Q.C., mv Herald of Free Enterprise, Report of Court No.8074

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Moving the goalposts

In our first POST, dated 31 August 2006 and in the technical paper (pages 15, 26-30) published HERE, we showed how the internationally agreed definitions for ‘watertight’ and ‘weathertight’ (which lay down the required properties for certain ship’s fittings) had been altered in the final report of the 2004 Gaul RFI, by the Investigation panel, in a way that made them looser in requirements and application.
To recap, the RFI definition for ‘watertight’ did not contain the very specific and essential capability of “preventing the passage of water in any direction under a head of water for which the surrounding structure is designed” that the standard definition incorporated, while the definition for ‘weathertight’ replaced the statutory capability that “in any sea conditions water will not penetrate into the vessel” with the less stringent requirement of ”being sealed to exclude water in normal sea conditions”.
Now, you may wonder: why would the RFI panel do such a thing, of creatively re-writing these definitions, rather than simply reproducing the standard ones from the Load Line and other Conventions?
If one looks at this problem in the whole context of the investigation and its outcome, then it becomes apparent that, without these alterations, the findings and the loss scenario that were produced by the investigation panel, would not have held water.
It was only according to these modified definitions that the inner covers of the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul could be categorised as watertight (in reality, these covers were not even of weathertight standard[1]).
Once having wrongly ascribed ‘watertight’ properties to the inner covers, it was then easy to claim, as the 2004 RFI did, that, had these covers been secured in the closed position, the flooding and subsequent loss of the vessel could have been prevented. As the Gaul’s inner covers were found to be open during the underwater survey, the blame for the incident was then immediately placed on the crew, thus avoiding any need for a further proper examination of the faulty outer ‘non-return’ flaps. (See VIDEO clip for a brief demonstration of the design fault)
Hence, we can only infer that: had the RFI panel not assigned properties to the closing arrangements on the duff and offal chutes of the Gaul on the basis of false criteria, they would have had to arrive at the same conclusion as others have: i.e. with the outer non-return flaps properly designed, the vessel would not have sank, regardless of whether the inner covers were open or closed.
[1] Only in combination with the outer flaps were the inner covers intended to form a weathertight barrier to the sea. The role of the outer flaps was to provide a strength barrier against the force of the waves, and that of the inner covers to simply prevent the leakage.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

After you, Sir

Organisations, like people, have their own memory and moeurs.
Despite the political assaults on the time-honoured institutions of this country, some, it appears, have not been completely transformed.
This looks to be the case with Lloyd’s Register of Shipping (although nowadays their declared purpose of existence is the management of risk, as opposed to their past aims of simply improving ships’ safety).
Demonstrating that institutional history is a better guide than our government’s agenda, LRS have chosen, it seems, to recall and stick to their original virtues and integrity, and, in response to our recent enquiry about the Gaul, have sent us the following message:
Dear ******
Thank you for your email and explaining your position. The legal enquiry is complete on the Gaul and information passed to the MCA. It will be Lloyd's Register's intention to work with them should they decide to take this further. If the MCA or other official body contract you to study this and request Lloyd's Register to assist, then we will be happy to participate in such a study, but not before.
I wish you success with your research.
Yours sincerely,
Marine Director
Lloyd's Register
This answer doesn’t sound, at all, like a statement of faith on the merits of the 2004 RFI. Does it?
Now, the final say in the Gaul saga rests with our Secretary of State for Transport, who, so far, has been rather non-committal.
However, once he realises that somebody straddling the fence is not going to get very far in either direction, he will have to take, we hope, the appropriate decision.
Because Lloyd’s Register have just said: After you, Sir!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Compliance with the rules (Part II)

In our previous post we indicated several non-compliances with the safety rules pertaining to the construction of the Gaul’s duff and offal chutes.
We are now reporting on further non-compliances with the rules, details of which have been published within this LINKED DOCUMENT.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Compliance with the rules (Part I)

In the email received from Lloyd’s Register of Shipping on 29 May 2007, it was stated that that the FV Gaul had been built in accordance with Class and statutory requirements.
Similarly, the final report of the Gaul 2004 RFI, states on page 10 that the vessel was “built to Lloyd’s Register of Shipping classification +100 A1 (Stern Trawler), Ice Class III for the hull.” In their letter dated 7 November 2006, the Department for Transport (DfT) also confirmed that ”the FV Gaul and her sister ships were built under Lloyd’s approval”.
Prompted by these remarks and as promised in an earlier post, we have decided to set out the reasons why these assertions are not wholly correct. These and further clarifications in this respect have been published on this PAGE

Friday, June 01, 2007

Electronic correspondence with Lloyd's Register of Shipping

On 24 May 2007 the following email was sent to the CEO designate of Lloyd's Register:

Dear Mr *********,
I am writing to you on the subject of the 2004 Re-opened Formal Investigation into the sinking of the trawler Gaul.
I would be very interested in your opinion on the research papers, critical comments and disclosures that have recently been published on the following sites:
As your staff appear to have visited the above web pages, I assume that LR has already formed an opinion on this rather controversial subject - opinion which, I hope, you may be willing to share with us.
Moreover, as LR is the society that classed the vessel and also had one of its principal surveyors appointed as assessor in the 2004 RFI, your input could be very informative.
Looking forward to your reply, I thank you in advance.
Yours sincerely,
The above email and the rest of the exchange is published at this LINK; the final answer, though, is still pending.
OBS.> The LRS claim that the chutes on the Gaul were "constructed in accordance with class and statutory requirements" is incorrect. We will explain more about this in the near future.