Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Met was not quite convinced by the Gaul RFI experts...

…but left it to us to investigate the fraud

In an earlier post, we gave details of the information received from the Metropolitan Police in response to our FOI request for the police report assessing our allegations that the conduct and the outcome of the Gaul inquiry (RFI) amounted to fraud.
As the published copy of the report shows, most of the information therein had been redacted so that nothing relevant could be seen.
Last month, however, following an intervention from the Information Commissioner, the Met have, reluctantly, released an extra paragraph - one authored presumably by a superior of the case assessment officer - which simply reads:

Please thank DC Boyce for his prompt and thorough assessment of this case.

DC Boyce seems to conclude that the Inquiry’s findings as to why various chutes were open are not necessarily correct [1] when considered against conflicting expert evidence. I agree that these issues are very subjective and I do not have sufficient knowledge of these matters to either agree or disagree with the Inquiry’s conclusions. However, I accept that the evidence to support a further criminal investigation is not made out.

It is quite something to get the police to admit, however reluctantly, that the conclusions of the Gaul inquiry were not necessarily correct (one does not need specialised knowledge to admit that - just a bit of common sense).

The evidence we had provided, both to the police as well as on this blog, should have been more than enough to trigger a criminal investigation. It would have been very easy for the Met detectives to contact the few witnesses we had suggested and thus extract further details about what went on behind the scenes prior and during the Gaul RFI.
Unfortunately, the Met must have decided that it was not their job to investigate and collect evidence, but ours.

As to the rest of the redactions in the case assessment report, both the Met and the Information Commissioner’s Office suggested that a Subject Access Data Request [2](SAR) might shed some light upon those black lines, which we, accordingly, submitted. But that is another story…

[1] The bold emphasis belongs to us.
[2] We also requested the Met to release, for a small fee, any personal data about us that was contained within the report in question.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The stability of the fishing vessel Trident

The Court hearings into the loss of the FV Trident have now concluded and we have been advised that the Sheriff Principal has retired to write his report. 
Although the control of the technical information, relevant to these hearings, has been unprecedented for a public inquiry, secretive even, the Advocate General’s views on what the preferred outcome should be have been frequently aired in the press:

She said: There is no reliable evidence to support a finding that the loss of the Trident was caused by deficiencies in her design stability, in particular non-compliance with the recommended IMCO intact stability criteria, or by capsizing in different circumstances.
The most probable cause of the loss of Trident was a sudden and catastrophic capsize in heavy seas, which most likely occurred within two or three seconds and was followed by rapid sinking.

Notwithstanding these points, one piece of factual information about Trident, which has recently managed to break through into the public domain as a result of a freedom of information request to the DfT, is a 34-year-old technical report on the tank testing that was carried out on a scale model of the Trident by the National Maritime Institute in 1976.

Although the NMI report is very carefully worded, it concludes that the Trident’s stability reserves were insufficient to prevent her from capsizing in sea conditions that were relatively moderate, ie in conditions similar to those that were recorded on the day she was lost. The report also shows that on her last voyage, Trident’s stability was deficient when compared to the IMCO minimum stability standards. It is unfortunate that for many years the Department of Trade have been unwilling to share these important conclusions with the relatives of those who were lost.

Apart from its conclusions, the NMI report also contains some information that is of real interest to Naval Architects: it contains a scaled body plan and loading data. What the release of this information actually means is that the curious amongst us can now check out the stability reserves of the Trident for ourselves – we no longer have to accept the official, sanitised, line that has been consistently promulgated by the DfT over the years and which has now also been adopted by the OAG.

Stability assessment

We constructed a computer model of the Trident’s hull and carried out an assessment of Trident’s stability reserves against the minimum standards that are laid down by IMCO for fishing vessels:

We have thus discovered that Trident did not meet the IMCO minimum stability criteria in any of the four principal loading conditions. 

We were also able to confirm that the Trident did not meet the IMCO stability criteria on the day she was lost and, furthermore, even if 10 tonnes of steel ballast had been added to her keel, she would still have been unable to meet the IMCO stability criteria in all of the four standard sailing conditions.

The following image contains the summary results of our stability assessment, the data that is highlighted in orange shows IMCO non-compliances in each of the six sailing conditions examined. Alternatively, this file [link] contains a copy of the stability assessment in a pdf format.

The IMCO stability standards are minima, which, when met, should prevent a vessel from capsizing in all but the most severe of weather conditions. They come as a package and they need to be complied with in their entirety.
Since 1975, all UK fishing vessels of the Tridents type and size have been obliged to meet the IMCO stability standards in full. Any vessel that did not meet the IMCO stability standard would not have been issued with a UK fishing vessel safety certificate by the MCA and would, therefore, have been unable to fish.

The Trident did not meet IMCO’s minimum stability standards and unfortunately the nature of her non-compliance was such that the mere addition of ballast would not have resolved this problem. For Trident, as in the case of her sister vessel, the Silver Lining, significant structural modifications would have been necessary to bring her stability reserves up to the required standard.

A ship’s propensity to capsize and its inherent stability are inextricably interrelated; the very fact that Trident capsized is conclusive evidence that Trident had insufficient stability for the sea conditions on the day she was lost.
Additionally, the fact that Trident did not meet IMCO’s minimum stability standards (i.e. her stability was deficient) would certainly have increased her propensity to capsize.

ADDENDUM (19 July 2010)

Stability model comparison

The output from our stability model was compared against the results obtained for the Trident’s loss condition from the DOT’s SIKOB program in 1976 (the SIKOB results are contained both in the final report of the original Formal Investigation and in the 1976 NMI model test report). The results from the 2010 computer program and the 1976 SIKOB program were found to be virtually identical (only 3mm difference in floating draught and 7mm difference in trim over 22 metres):

However, it was noted that the original 1976 calculations contained a small input error and, when the input to the 2010 program was modified to rectify this anomaly, the stability results were reduced slightly:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

FV Trident Inquiry - Preliminary comment

Recent reports in the press advise us [Aberdeen Press and Journal and BBC] that Scotland's Advocate General (AG) is of the view that lack of stability was not a significant factor in Trident’s capsize and loss, and that the old chestnut - ‘heavy seas’ - has popped up again as explanation of the 1974 tragedy:

The most probable cause of the loss of Trident was a sudden and catastrophic capsize in heavy seas.

This proposition by the AG does not really hold any weight for a vessel of Trident’s size and type, even when we take into account the more severe weather conditions (force 7-8 or 9 even?) that were generated for the RFI at the behest of its ‘panel of experts’.

Indeed, if this were a plausible hypothesis, we would have had many Trident-type losses (of IMCO-compliant fishing vessels) during the past 36 years and national legislation providing for increased intact stability standards would have needed to be introduced. This, however, has never happened.

In the original Formal Investigation, the Court reached the conclusion that "reliance cannot be placed on the soundness of the design of Trident" and that "she was probably of inadequate stability".
After reviewing the whole of their evidence, they further concluded that " in all the circumstances it would be unrealistic to conclude that her loss was due solely to the action of the sea and, finaly, that inadequate stability is the factor most likely to underlie her foundering in conditions which would not normally have overwhelmed a ship of her size."

(More to follow)

Friday, July 09, 2010


To celebrate the ennoblement of John Prescott and his happy accession to the House of Lords, we have posted the short clip below.
This may also remind his followers that in the New Labour Farm "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.".

Monday, July 05, 2010

FV Trident - Centres of gravity

During the Original Formal Investigation (OFI - 1975) into the loss of the fishing vessel Trident, matters pertaining to her stability were examined in great depth; however, when it came to writing the final report of the investigation, the Court felt unable to make a pronouncement on whether the Trident had met IMCO’s minimum stability standards or not:

It is impossible to assert categorically that Trident did or did not comply with the IMCO recommendations, to which it was intended that she should be built

Apart from the uncertainty arising from the absence of an inclining experiment, one of the principal reasons cited for this unfortunate lack of assurance was the fact that there were known discrepancies between the designer’s original drawings and the as-built hull shape of the Trident and her sister vessel, the Silver Lining.

In the OFI’s final report, this point was emphasised by including two stability calculations as an Annex, one based upon the dimensions taken from the designer’s drawings (Bute lines) and one based upon the dimensions lifted from her sister vessel, the Silver Lining (Napier lines).

These two sets of stability calculations show that the Trident’s stability passed the IMCO recommendations when the calculations were carried out based upon the ‘Bute lines’ dimensions, but failed the IMCO recommendations when the same calculations were carried out based upon the ‘Napier Lines’ dimensions:

Partial copies from OFI final report plus amendments

This all seems to be quite straightforward and, apparently, justifies the Court’s uncertainty on this matter.

However, what is not immediately apparent, both from the 1976 OFI report and from the transcripts of Court evidence, is the fact that the real reason why the Bute hulled version of Trident ‘passed’ and the Napier hulled version of Trident ‘failed’ was that the vertical centres of gravity (VCG) that were used for these two separate stability calculations were different:
  • Bute hull lightship VCG = 10.072 feet above the keel (a value of unspecified provenance)
  • Napier hull lightship VCG = 10.487 feet above the keel (value derived from the inclining experiment carried out on Silver Lining and subsequently used in the 1976 NMI research)
If the same vertical centre of gravity figures had been used in both of these two stability calculations, they would have indicated either a double failure (when the VCGs = 10.487 ft) or a double pass (when the VCGs = 10.072 ft)
i.e The Trident’s stability calculations would show a pass or a fail (with respect to the IMCO stability standard) dependent upon the value of VCG used and not, as the OFI implied, due to differences between the Bute and Napier hull geometries, which were not, by themselves, sufficient to influence the results of the stability calculations.

What is more, it would appear that this was not just an oversight, but more of a deliberate ‘smoke and mirrors’ exercise by the DOT who, when they drafted conditions A1 and A2, also forgot to include the lightship VCG figures in the tables that are contained in the final OFI report:

If one reads through the transcripts of evidence for the 1975 inquiry, it is notable yet again [link to previous FV Gaul post] that Council for the DOT (who in 1975 carried out similar functions to those performed by the AG in the 2010 inquiry) was quite anxious to put forward the notion that Trident had complied substantially with the IMCO minimum standards.

(More to come)