Monday, March 24, 2008

Clues and toggles

In continuation of our post of March 09, we are now publishing a DOCUMENT, which points to some differences and similarities in the ways in which the re-opened formal investigations (RFIs) into two major marine accidents: the MV Derbyshire and FV Gaul have been conducted and the reasons why the first was able to deliver better quality results than the second.
We considered the formal investigation into the loss of the MV Derbyshire, in which, initially, the Assessors wrongly concluded - on the basis of a rope seen emerging from the Bosun’s store hatch opening and of a simple examination of the disposition of that hatch’s toggles - that the loss of the vessel had been due to crew error.
In a curiously similar manner, the Gaul RFI also put the blame for the loss of the trawler on the crew, who, the RFI panel claimed, had neglected to close the inner covers to two openings in the hull - this time on the basis of a ligature apparently holding the vessel’s duff chute inner lid in the open position.
However, as the Derbyshire Assessors’ report had been made public two years prior to the RFI court hearings, their findings were openly examined and contested when appropriate and this allowed the court to arrive, in the end, at a set of different and more robust conclusions.
What is worthy of note here is that, in the Derbyshire RFI, it was the subsequent examination by independent experts of the condition and position of the Bosun’s hatch cover’s toggles that led to the rebuttal of the Assessors’ initial verdict of crew error.
Finally, the court concluded that the crew had not failed to secure the hatch lid and that the rope emerging from the Bosun’s store hatch opening was nothing more than post-casualty debris.
Unfortunately, despite the precedent provided by the Derbyshire inquiry, during the Gaul inquiry no external, independent examination of the case was allowed.
In the Gaul Investigation, the report of the Assessors, the retained experts and the court was presented at the end of the RFI as one final document, ‘set in stone’. Nonetheless, a mere glance at the position of the toggles, as shown by the underwater survey footage, suggests that the inner lids of both chutes on the Gaul had been initially closed.
Surprisingly, during the court hearings, neither the strongback bar (which, in conjunction with two toggles, secured the offal chute cover) nor the condition of the toggles was even mentioned.
In addition to and more intriguingly than this oversight is, however, the creative, ‘non-figurative’ manner in which the retained experts produced the drawings of the duff and offal chutes, in their supposedly as found’ condition.
The toggles, which in the underwater survey video footage are clearly shown to be in the ‘hatch closed’ position, appear on the experts’ drawings to be in the ‘hatch open’ position.



The unfortunate effect of these inaccuracies is that it can mislead subsequent examiners into concluding that, since all the toggles were found in the ‘open’ position on the wreck, the court’s finding that the crew had left the hatches open prior to the loss of the vessel is most likely correct.

More about it HERE

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Health and knowledge

Since we started this blog and the related Gaul website, almost two years ago, none of the experts in the 2004 RFI have deigned to comment or, in any way, express agreement or discontent with the technical propositions enunciated on these sites.
When a professional finds his opinions challenged or publicly criticised by his peers, he is normally prompted to reply either by defending his theories or by amending them. The experts in the Gaul RFI, by contrast, have buried themselves in silence, and although we have repeatedly tried to engage with them, they never replied. Don’t you find this odd?
The government didn’t even process the RFI recommendations, as customary after each major investigation, not as much because they were irrelevant, but for fear that the gilding will come off its findings at the slightest touch.

In contemporary Britain, it appears, truth is nothing more than an empty shell that can be filled with whatever meaning suits the government’s interests of the moment.
Strange events are left un-investigated, important questions are blithely ignored and, like the profane who must be prevented from defiling sacred knowledge, we are being taught to content ourselves with secrecy, half truths and disinformation.
It is best not to argue, the cynics recommend, because letting the humbug stuff you full of prunes is nowadays less harmful to your health than properly checking the facts.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Closed Inner Covers

In our post of 18 February 2007 we discussed the conclusion of the 2004 Gaul RFI, which stated that the inner covers of the duff and offal chutes on the Gaul had been left open by the crew – an act of negligence that cost them their lives.
The only ‘evidence’ that the panel relied upon to back their deduction was hanging, literally, by a thread.
Moreover, we can now add, the underwater survey images show that there is a strong possibility that the inner covers had actually been closed and secured by the crew prior to the loss of the vessel.
The attached DOCUMENT explains in more detail how the state (i.e. position and damage) in which the fittings used to secure the inner covers closed (i.e. toggles and lugs) were found at the time of the underwater survey indicates that the covers could have burst open under the pressure of the seawater coming in through the open outer flaps.
Surprisingly, the RFI documents do not mention but once, and in passing, these closing arrangements that were, in effect, at the very centre of the problem area identified by the investigation.
More to come...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Wilful Ignorance

When they’ve finished filling in their various questionnaires, the Fraud Squad detectives set about catching criminals.
But, how do they perform this task? Do they go out into the street, copping people at random? No, of course not! They employ logic.
The unfortunate thing, however, is that their logic can sometimes take the shape of the politicised Heads of the Met.
In our previous posts we reported on the progress made by the Fraud Squad in response to our fraud complaint. Today, we are able to provide you with an exciting update:
After 11 months of rumination, the Met detectives were finally able to shout Eureka, as they found an answer to our concerns, and a simple one at that.
In a letter signed by a Detective Chief Inspector of the Fraud Squad, we were informed that the design fault on the Gaul - which, we contended, could have competed as a more likely cause for the loss of the vessel than crew negligence, had evidence of this fault not been withheld – was, in fact, recognised by the 2004 RFI and duly mentioned in the final report, at paras 2.44 –2.49.
How extraordinary! The naval architect, who has been carping about the final report to the RFI and its findings for more than two years now, never realised that the Investigation Panel had in fact agreed with him.
How could he have missed the meaning of those six vital paragraphs, which the Met detectives’ perspicacity identified as proof that the RFI panel didn’t keep shtum about the design fault in question?
Well, the truth of the matter is that the above-mentioned paragraphs[1] refer, in fact, only to:
  1. a calculation error in the design of the chutes, the unfortunate significance of which being, nevertheless, overlooked (see DESIGN ERROR 2 document);

  2. a mention of the fact that the vessel owners had annotated the drawing of the chute with the statement “the design of the watertight hopper hatch cover was “too fiddly” " – statement endorsed by the final report despite being factually incorrect;

  3. the unrealistic notion that the one inch square section of the steel hinge spindles would have become rounded with normal use (while, in the same paragraph, the experts advise that they had visited the Gaul’s 29 year old sister vessel on which, the same type of spindle had not, even by that time, become rounded);

  4. a suggestion that the design of the hinges would have “inevitably resulted in corrosion within the brass gland” - in fact the ‘brass gland’ referred to therein was a sintered bronze, self lubricating, bearing, and

  5. a statement that the flaps could not be maintained without destroying them, which, as we explained HERE as well as in this POST and on page 22 of the TECHNICAL REPORT, was pure misconception.

Nowhere in the report is it mentioned that the non-return flaps opened the wrong way round (a major DESIGN FAULT) and, therefore, would have failed to act as the principal strength barrier against seawater flooding, as they were supposed to. And that is the crux of the matter. Plain as daylight.

To claim otherwise is brazenly insincere, similar to saying that white is black and black is white.

When questioned about these inadvertences, the DCI professed ignorance of the details of the case, passing the buck to the lowest rank: i.e. a constable in his squad.

(To be continued)
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[1] A copy of paras 2.44 –2.49 is provided at THIS LINK