Monday, November 09, 2009

Trident Formal Investigation – the wave

On reading the latest press reports about the FV Trident formal investigation, we couldn’t help noticing how keen our government is to establish a new set of ‘prevailing weather conditions’ for the time when the fishing vessel was lost, a manoeuvre which, we understand, is being opposed by the relatives of the seven crew members who died in the tragedy.

At the heart of the matter appears to be the government’s desire to avoid any criticism [1] emerging from the current proceedings and the fact that it would be much more ‘convenient’ for them if the loss of the Trident could be put down to an act of God rather than to deficiencies in the transverse stability of the vessel.

Unfortunately for the Government, the weather conditions that were officially recorded and witnessed at the time of the vessel’s loss were unexceptional (no worse than Beaufort 5 to 6, wind from a NNE direction with a fairly rough sea) so, conjuring up a wave that is big enough to capsize an 85 ft fishing trawler from such weather conditions must be a very difficult task.

Since the wreck was discovered in 2001, there have been two official underwater surveys as well as a series of model tests, which were carried out under official supervision, in Holland [2].

Surprisingly, the results from the underwater surveys and model tests have not, as yet, been publicised, but we can guess that they will form the centrepiece of the present inquiry and show the possibility of the Trident capsizing, but only in confused sea conditions with occasional ‘big’ waves - conditions just like those that the inquiry’s official experts are now trying to convince us were in play at the time of the loss.

Subsequently, we suspect, the inquiry will be told by other leading experts that the Trident exhibited poor sea-keeping characteristics in their revised weather conditions and that it was “poor sea-keeping” in conjunction with a ‘big’ wave that ultimately led to her loss. The real factors regarding the vessels probable stability deficiencies will be thus minimised or disregarded.
At this moment in time, however, the above is mere speculation. We would like to hope that, ultimately, the truth could still emerge from the proceedings that are now taking place in Aberdeen.
[1] At the time the vessel was constructed (1973) the Whitefish Authority was meant to perform a supervisory/monitoring role to ensure that the stability of any fishing vessel, funded with State aid, met certain minimum standards.
[2] This is not the first time that model tests and research have been carried out into the Trident’s loss by the UK Government. In the late 70’s, model tests were carried out on the Trident and a similar sized trawler to compare their resistance to capsize. The Trident was found to be inferior to the second vessel, and capsized when it was made to perform circular manoeuvres in ‘breaking waves’ (note while these test conditions may be deemed ‘unrealistic’ they were found to be necessary for the model to capsize) What is significant however, is that during subsequent model tests it was found that, if the stability of the Trident model was increased slightly, it no longer capsized. (Ref: ‘Capsizing of Small Trawlers’ paper by A Morrall read at RINA meeting in Glasgow on 20 February 1979.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks to Gadfly for following the Trident case and documenting the huge struggle the families are having in trying to find the truth

James Higham said...

Now this is interesting. I'll have to return tomorrow morning and read this through.