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

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