Saturday, January 16, 2010

The team

There is nothing unusual in the fact that political parties suffer, at times, from internal fighting and rebellion; what is remarkable is that our New Labour Party has been doing it with the periodicity of a lunar phenomenon, and that our beleaguered Prime Minister has managed to survive, although not unscathed, each attempt to unseat him.
The most tiresome aspect, however, is that after each spell of hostility comes the pacification, and, if you can still stomach the Labour Party’s unending treachery and backstabbing, you may find the bogus kissing and making-up that usually follow - together with all those group photos where prominent members of the cabinet, madly, parade their unity – far more distasteful.
As George Eliot said, there are victories worse than a defeat, and our Prime Minister's latest victory could be safely categorised as one of those. Because, after their latest ‘surrender’, the New Labour rebels seem, nonetheless, to have won additional power and have even acquired prime ministerial prerogatives. The PM himself, it has been suggested, is now a captive and seemingly afraid of his cabinet.
And, like burglars trashing the house they’ve just robbed, after having tied the owners to their chairs, the New Labour insurgents, we ourselves have noticed, now appear free to cause as much mischief as they please.

Caught between a disappearing past and a terrifying future, the New Labour team - representatives not of the people, but of those moneyed interests and shady business networks that sponsored their access to power - have a lot to fear from a change of regime. As the prospect of the coming election starts to hit home - having confiscated our reality and arrogated its powers - the realisation of their inevitable removal from office is leading the New Labour team to desperation and absurdity.

Friday, January 01, 2010

The stability of the trawler Gaul

To bring in the New Year with a bang, we would like to announce the outcome of an independent, critical and detailed investigation into the operational stability reserves of the freezer trawler Gaul. The results of this investigation reveal that, contrary to the many official pronouncements that were made on this matter (in 1974, 1980, 1999 and 2004), the Gaul’s reserves of intact stability did not in fact meet the minimum standards and norms that were expected for a fishing vessel built in the early 1970s (ref. IMCO “Recommendation on Intact Stability of Fishing Vessels” 1968).
An extract from the final report of the Formal Investigation into the loss of the Gaul (1974) gives the first pronouncement on this matter:

When the stern-trawler Gaul and her crew left Hull at 6 AM on the morning of 22 January 1974 for the Barents Sea fishing grounds, they were not putting to sea in an “exceptionally seaworthy vessel” nor in one that “had excellent sea-keeping characteristics and a large range of intact stability” [1] as the hyperbole in the 1999 MAIB report into the loss of the Gaul would have us believe, instead they were setting out for a destination notorious for poor weather, in a ship, which did not meet the IMCO basic stability standards [2] in the sailing conditions that were normal for her service.
What made things worse, however, was the fact that due to a number of oversights and design errors, the official stability documentation that was provided onboard the Gaul for the use of the Skipper (although certified by the Department of Trade) over-estimated the vessel’s reserves of intact stability to such an extent that anyone using it would not have been able to identify when the vessel was approaching any marginal or critical stability conditions.
Added to that, and most important of all, was the fact that, shortly after her delivery, the Gaul’s owners converted two of her double bottom tanks to enable them to carry fuel oil instead of ballast water (ballast water was required on the Gaul to ensure that the vessel could maintain adequate stability in all anticipated sailing conditions), but the stability documents were not revised to take account of this significant modification.

The effects of this alteration could only be described as disastrous from the viewpoint of the Gaul’s ability to meet the IMCO stability standards (see example in Annex 1) and, in fact, on the day of her loss it is probable that, unbeknownst to her skipper, she was sailing in a marginal or deficient stability condition [3].

In 2004, the officials charged with conducting the Re-opened Formal Investigation into the loss of the Gaul managed to convince themselves, but not many others, that factory deck flooding, resulting from crew error was the reason why the Gaul had capsized and foundered.
Design faults, which could lead to such flooding, and the fact that the Gaul had inadequate stability for her proposed service were two critical issues that were kept strictly off the agenda.
[1] MAIB - the Marine Accident Investigation Branch of the DfT
[2] The IMCO stability criteria have been recognized for more than forty years now as being the minimum base stability standard that should be met by seagoing trawlers to ensure safety at sea.
[3] From the viewpoint of stability assessment, the exact condition of the Gaul at the time of her loss cannot be accurately gauged and minor differences in assumptions made as to the amount of fish and gear onboard, fuel consumption, tank usage etc could take the vessel from a marginal ‘pass’ to a significant ‘fail’ (vis-à-vis the IMCO minimum standard).

The table above shows that the vessel fails to meet four of the IMCO’s six minimum stability criteria (i.e. the GZ areas and the initial GM value) in the given sailing condition and that the failure is neither marginal nor borderline, but a failure by a substantial margin (see differences between minimum stability criteria and the actual values). (Downloadable PDF version at
Happy New Year!