Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wreck Discovery

It has recently been reported that a team of divers have discovered the wreck of a UK fishing vessel thought to be the Blue Crusader, a 274 tons gross trawler which was lost in heavy weather (10-12 force gales) off Ronaldsay Firth in the Orkneys after sailing from Aberdeen on January 13, 1965. All 13 crew onboard perished in this tragedy.
After 13 days without radio communications from the vessel, a full-scale search was launched. Two Shackletons from Royal Air Force station Kinloss scanned the Orkneys area for four days, but the trawler was never found.

The identity of the wreck now discovered has not as yet been confirmed, but the diving team who located it are planning to go back to the site and check its registration number.

Meanwhile, we have found a copy of the Report of the Official Inquiry, dated 3rd December 1965, which can be viewed and downloaded from this LINK (Crown Copyright).


In 1965 when the Blue Crusader was lost the regulatory framework, which governed the safety of fishing vessels was very weak. It was not until after the IMCO had developed their minimum standards for fishing vessels stability and the Holland-Martin Report on trawler safety had been published, that UK safety legislation, courtesy of the 1970 Safety Provisions Act, was put in place to rectify this shortfall.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Personal Data

In an earlier post we disclosed a previously redacted paragraph from the Met Police (Specialist Crime Unit) case assessment report – to which we had recently gained access care of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The report in question had been, as you can see from our post of 10 of May 2009, almost entirely redacted by the Met who claimed that: "the majority of information contained within the report has been redacted as it is exempt by virtue of Section 40(1)&(2) of the Act."
Section 40(1) of the Freedom of Information Act refers to the personal data of the subject data applicant, whereas Section 40(2) refers to the personal data of other people .[*]
Thus, the Met implied, over 80% of their assessment of the Gaul RFI consisted of biographic detail … (!?) although in their response to our FOI request for information regarding any witnesses/ parties questioned by detectives during their assessment process, the police indicated there were none.

The Met also advised that, should we wish to request the redacted information in respect of Section 40(1) (i.e. personal data about ourselves), which is contained in that report, we would have to complete a Subject Access Request (SAR) application.
We did complete two SAR forms and paid the associated fees. The response we got, however, was the release of another few lines from their case assessment report (these, except for our names, did not contain any other personal data, but only the allegations we had made about the shortcomings of the Gaul RFI).
The rest still remained concealed. That is a big chunk of the report – paragraphs 8 to 18 – remained redacted, purportedly, under the provisions of Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act, which relates to third parties’ personal data.

Now, if we take another look at the redacted report, we can see that paragraph 19 states that the case officer "reviewed the materials described at paragraphs 10 to 18" in order to assess the validity of our complaint about the undisclosed design faults of the Gaul. The materials should, therefore, have contained technical rather than personal information. For, anyway, what personal information could they have contained and about whom? Under the 1998 Data Protection Act (DPA), personal data is clearly defined as data about a living individual, who can be identified from those data.
It may be that the documents referred to in the police assessment report did, in effect, contain information relating to technical matters, but - based on the fact that those materials had an author who, by necessity, must have been a living person, and judging that any expressed opinions reveal the insights of a person’s mind - the Met may have gone as far as to conclude that disclosure of such insights were prone to lead to undue intimacy and breach, therefore, the author’s rights under the Data Protection Act.

Thus, the Met have conveniently missed the fact that personal data is information about a person, not information a originating from a person – otherwise, except that produced by non-human species, all information would be exempt.
Also, as we have already contended in our reply to the Met, a witness statement is not considered personal data under the provisions of the 1998 Data Protection Act, unless the witness himself is the focus of that information. Just because a document contains the name of a person does not mean that it is about that person.
All opinion has an author, but if the opinion is not about the author himself and his personal life, then that opinion should be able to be passed on. Besides, the Data Protection Act itself suggests the means by which information can be conveyed without revealing its source: i.e. the omission of names or other identity details.

Unfortunately, by choosing not to disclose the requested information, the Metropolitan Police have now left room for suspecting that the content of their case assessment report is either embarrassing or untrue.

[*](1) Any information to which a request for information relates is exempt information if it constitutes personal data of which the applicant is the data subject.
(2) Any information to which a request for information relates is also exempt information if-
(a) it constitutes personal data which do not fall within subsection (1), and
(b) either the first or the second condition below is satisfied. [etc]

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The FV Trident Investigation – Another Public Inquiry - Another national disgrace

In an earlier post we gave an overview on how the re-opened Trident casualty investigation (RFI) was being conducted and managed by the Advocate General towards an outcome that would be preferred by at least one of the departments in our current Government (the DfT).

Recently we have learnt that the JPE (the RFI’s Joint Panel of Experts) had also taken it upon themselves to rewrite the official records of Trident’s intact stability.

Work done:

The JPE have changed the official DOT lightship particulars for Trident (from those used in the original investigation):

Original investigation (OFI) 1975

Lightship displacement[1] = 149.83 tonnes (147.46 imperial tons)
VCG[2] position = 3.197m above keel (10.487 feet)
LCG[3] position = 9.971m forward of the rudder stock (3.525 feet aft of amidships)

Re-opened investigation (RFI) 2010

Lightship displacement = 153.01 tonnes
VCG position = 3.18m above keel
LCG position = 9.95m forward of the rudder stock

They have also modified the weights of the items that she was assumed to be carrying on the day of her last voyage (the original figures can be seen in the NMI/Morrall testing report page 13 and in the report of the original investigation - condition A2):
  • They increased the amount of fuel she was carrying by 1.75 tonnes to 6.75 tonnes
  • They doubled the amount of fresh water on board to 3 tonnes
  • They reduced the amount of stores in the upper focsle space from 1.5 tonnes to 0.45 tonnes and removed 1 tonne of stores from the lower focsle space
  • They reduced the weight of the fish boxes in the hold from 3.37 tonnes to 2.4 tonnes
  • They reduced the weight of the lube oil drums in the engine room by 20kg
  • They reduced the weight of fishing nets from 3.6 tonnes to 3 tonnes
  • They increased the weight of the gallows chain from 0.27 to 0.45 tonnes
  • They removed the ‘dog rope’
  • They increased the amount of engine room stores by 100kg
  • They increased the amount allowed for the crew’s effects by 90kg
In brief, the effect of the JPE’s modifications has been to increase Trident’s notional stability reserves[4] by about 10% for her final sailing and loss condition.

If we look at the stability of the Trident in both the original and the JPE-modified conditions we can see that in her original condition, Trident is clearly non-compliant with IMCO minimum stability criteria, however, after the JPE modifications have been applied, her stability improves to the point where she only marginally fails to meet the IMCO minima:

What were the motives behind the JPE’s actions?

1. To ‘update’ our official records to indicate that, contrary to the evidence contained in the report of the 1975 formal investigation and in the 1976 NMI/Morrall report, the Trident’s stability at the time of her loss 'complied substantially with IMCO'[5] minimum standards, and that, therefore, non-compliance was not a factor in her loss.

(RFI Transcript for 12 July 2010 – Advocate General page 102:)

2. To request the Sheriff to dismiss the conclusions from the original 1975 formal investigation and the subsequent model tests carried out NMI/Morrall in 1976;

(RFI Transcript for 12 July 2010, page 105:)

3. And finally to oblige the Sheriff to conclude:

(RFI Transcript for 12 July 2010, page 74)

Our conclusion

The callous way in which the current investigation into the tragic loss of the Trident and her seven crew members has been scripted by the DfT and conducted by the AG towards a pre-determined outcome reveals the depths that our Government, and those it employs, will stoop in order to maintain policies that, regardless of their warped perception of the public interest, they know are both unjust and unlawful.

This is nothing less than a national disgrace

An extended pdf version of this article is available HERE.

[1] Lightship displacement = the floating weight of the empty ship
[2] VCG = the position of the vertical centre of gravity of the ship’s weight
[3] LCG = the position of the longitudinal centre of gravity of the ship’s weight
[4] Note:  In 1975, the Court’s experts carried out a very comprehensive and careful investigation into Trident’s stability characteristics - in terms of ascertaining her empty hull weight, position of centre of gravity and the items of fishing gear, fuel, water and stores she was carrying onboard at the time of her loss. There is no substantive reason or factual basis to justify the changes that have now been carried out by the JPE.
[5] This was the stated position of the DOT throughout the 1975 Formal Investigation