Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Answers in a fishtail

In our previous posts (27 April, 05 May and 12 June), we have discussed the matter of the inner covers to the offal chute on the Gaul and provided photographic evidence from the wreck which showed that these covers had in fact been secured in the closed position prior to the loss of the vessel and that they could have been opened by the forces of the sea before sinking took place.

The 2004 RFI panel thought, however, that the offal chute inner covers – found open on the wreck – had been negligently left so by the crew. (The same explanation was employed in respect of the duff chute inner covers, which had also been found open.) (See also this POST)

It must be mentioned here that the regime on the Gaul was such that the operation of offal chute would have fallen under the jurisdiction of the factory manager and his team, while the operation of the duff chute was under the control of the deck crew.
This arrangement gave the RFI experts the opportunity to claim that the factory deck staff, as non-fishermen, had been ignorant about the importance of keeping the offal chute inner covers closed when not in use and, tragically, had failed to secure them at the end of a busy working day.

Unfortunately, the RFI also failed to draw any conclusions from the relevant information that was available to the inquiry. This information relates to the following facts:

1. The offal chute overboard discharge acted as a relief valve during the fish processing operations and, as such, it would only be used when the fish meal plant (rate = 25 tonnes/day) was operating at full capacity or when the fish meal hold was full (capacity = 120 tonnes)
It is also known that the Gaul skipper’s reports recorded that at the time of the loss, the vessel had only managed to accumulate about 20 tonnes of fish fillets onboard together with about 7 tonnes of fish-meal (i.e. a poor catch for the period she was fishing).
The logical conclusion that follows from these data is that there would have been no need for the factory crew to use the offal chute overboard discharge during the vessel’s last voyage.

2. Furthermore two witnesses (Messrs George Petty and Raymond Smith) testified at the hearings that the offal chute would not have been used during the last two voyages in the Gaul’s short life, simply because the fish meal hold was never filled.

More explanations, quotes and details on the subject have been published at this LINK and HERE (diagram).

Like the rest of the conclusions in the 2004 RFI report, the assumption of negligence by all parts of the crew, no matter how implausible, were forced into relevance and given the status of fact.

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