Sunday, December 13, 2009

FV Trident Formal Investigation – financial pressures

The latest news trickling from the FV Trident formal inquiry is rather disquieting. An article in the Times informs us that the relatives of the seven fishermen who lost their lives when the Trident went down in 1974 are now threatened by the government with financial ruin if they continue to press for a correct and unbiased investigation.

Although in 2002 Stephen Byers, then Secretary of State for Transport, promised that the government will honour its obligation to fund the proceedings, and despite the fact that the families have had no say in how the £3 million costs incurred to date have been decided, the government now has the gall to warn the families that they will not be reimbursed for the costs of essential technical assistance, unless they cease their quest for the truth and fall in with the government’s preferred version of events.

Yes, £3 million is a significant amount, but it was the government alone who chose to spend this sum and what to spend it on. The new model-testing performed in Holland, for instance, was not really necessary except to bolster the government’s proposition that it was a big wave rather than poor design that had been responsible for the vessel’s loss (comprehensive model tests had already been carried out in the late seventies, which indicated that poor stability on the Trident could have led to her capsize).
This blatant bullying of the Trident widows shows the level that our government officials will sink to in order to maintain the myth that there is no gain in pursuing justice and to avoid, perhaps, creating a point of reference for other similarly contentious inquiries.

The Times article also mentions that the victims’ families are determined to look further into the possibility that Trident had stability problems, and that the pursuit of this line of inquiry “would involve raising the vessel from the seabed”.
In fact, this is not really the case. In 1975, at the end of the first formal investigation, and 26 years before the wreck of the Trident was discovered, the Court felt confident enough to be able to conclude:
“The Court considers it probable that deficient stability in her design contributed to her foundering.”
Since then, the only new thing that has emerged is the evidence from the underwater survey of the wreck, which appears to attach even more weight to that probability.

Raising the vessel from the seabed may (depending on the state of the wreckage) provide the experts with some additional information that would improve the accuracy of their stability calculations. However, this is uncertain, and it may well be that, at the end of the day, the information already available from the sister vessel (and from the inclining test carried out on the Trident in Middlesbrough) provides the most realistic basis for a suitable assessment of the Trident’s stability.

Anyway, the biggest problem is that the Advocate General has already made it clear that she is determined not to allow an inquiry into the sinking of a vessel focus on the vessel’s design. Now, the stability of the vessel may be assessed one way or the other, but how do you solve that?

1 comment:

RAJ said...

Once again another enlightened article, most of which is directed at the real core of the case that the Government or OAG will try everything it seems to avoid what is the real issue for the majority families and I may say has has always been( contrary to what the OAG suggest) that the stability of the vessel has been the core of their argument. It would also seem in my opinion what has taken place so far has been an expertly orchestrated hearing carefully choreographed by council for the OAG to allow the JPE to present their report without the families having an opportunity to present theirs. I also have little doubt that it is the express desire of the OAG not to delve too deep into the mystical world of stability after all it appears they have changed history with the weather citing the possibility of 30 ft waves therefore it should be an easy task for them all to change history once again and annul the previous inquiry’s` conclusion of the probability that deficient stability contributed to her foundering.
The tone for this inquiry I believe was set early on by the ominous statement from the OAG that the families should be prepared for “ an inconvenient truth” which is rather ironic as it appears to be exactly what the government are doing their level best to avoid