Although in our previous post we advised that we wouldn’t like to embarrass the MAIB by commenting on the technical content of the summary document they recently released, having subsequently learned that, in September 2009, the MAIB had also tried to pass off this very same document to the relatives of the Trident’s crew as being a copy of Admiral Lang’s official report to the Secretary of State for Transport, we have decided that, in these circumstances, we ought to change our minds.
When we first received this document, a document we did not request, we questioned the MAIB’s Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents on its status and suitability for publication, we also suggested that the ‘report’ was incomplete, not impartial and that an inspector, who was probably not competent to make pronouncements on Trident’s stability, had drafted it.
We received the following reply:
…..My position is that you made a valid request for information that we hold. The report you refer to is in our files and, in my view, I was obliged to consider whether it could be released. I have made my decision in good faith…….. However, I do find offensive your suggestion that any MAIB employee was not impartial or was incompetent. In the 6 years I have worked for the Branch I have been more than impressed by the commitment, enthusiasm and pure talent of my staff……
………I do not intend to debate this issue with you any further.
(Steve Clinch, MAIB Chief Inspector)
A copy of this MAIB document is available in pdf format HERE; we have also reproduced a few representative paragraphs below, together with our comments – which question the MAIB’s impartiality and competence in matters pertaining to Trident’s stability:
- The most important point here (omitted by the Inspector) was that in 1975 the Court of Investigation had already concluded that the stability of the vessel was probably deficient; this was not mere speculation by the next of kin and the media.
- The Inspector has stated here that Trident’s sister vessel had only minor stability deficiencies and that when she sailed in a similar condition to the Trident (as lost), she had adequate stability – thus implying that Trident also had adequate stability. However, the Inspector has omitted to mention the fact that, in the conditions he quotes, the Silver Lining had already been provided with an additional 8 tons of pig iron ballast to counter her stability deficiencies - Trident did not have this ballast onboard at the time she was lost.
Additionally, after having read the report of the 1975 Formal Investigation, his summary report should have taken account of the Court’s views on the Silver Lining’s stability (page 6):
“Without going in detail into the owner’s complaints regarding Silver Lining, it must be noted that despite the addition of 8 tons of ballast, her stability is still in considerable doubt.”
- On page 15 the Inspector also implies that, following Trident’s loss, the reason why Silver Lining was laid up and lengthened by 10 feet was because of factors other than deficient stability (i.e., difficulty in getting a crew and for insurance purposes, which are consequences of the vessel’s deficient stability rather than direct causes of her lay-up and lengthening).
- Here the Inspector seems ready to accept that Trident’s stability was adequate based upon the testimony of her owner. We have carried out a simple stability check and ascertained that the Trident would have capsized in any of her sailing conditions, if the powerblock had borne a direct load of 26 tons, as described above. In any case, the gear on Trident was incapable of a direct lift of such magnitude and would have probably failed before capsizing.
- The Inspector again has made a statement that cannot be supported by analysis. We have carried out a brief calculation and found that, if the net (weighing about 1.3 tons) shifted to port or starboard by 2.5m, the vessel would have heeled by about 2 degrees (i.e. not a large angle of heel)
The underlying tone of this document, recently released by MAIB, seems to be that the families of the deceased and the media have somehow exaggerated the possibility that Trident had been deficient in stability.
The fact that this MAIB document plays down the principal conclusion of the original investigation (OFI) regarding the Trident’s stability, and the fact that the outcomes from the NMI Trident model tests, which added weight to that conclusion, have not even been mentioned, raise further questions as to its objectivity and impartiality.
In a previous communication to us, the Chief Inspector of Accidents admitted, that the MAIB reports only had the legal status of OPINION. In that case, we would argue that the public does not really wish to pay out a lot of money for casualty investigations that only deliver DfT opinions; what they would prefer, to be sure, is to receive information as to what actually happened and the reasons why an accident occurred – delivered promptly from an impartial and competent source.
(More to come)