Tuesday, December 06, 2011

More ordinary abuses

A few weeks ago we read reports that Her Majesty the Queen had signed the amendment “to ensure that the UK’s justice system can no longer be abused for political reasons” and Israeli politicians do no longer stand the risk of being welcome with an arrest warrant when visiting Britain.

Fair enough, but we cannot help wonder why Her Majesty cannot also ensure that the UK's justice system is no longer abused (and not only abused, but made a mockery of) for party political reasons by Her Majesty’s government, when the abuses do not affect foreign dignitaries, but her Majesty’s more ordinary subjects. The sovereign is deemed, after all, to be the fount of justice, in whose name justice is delivered by the British courts.

Her Majesty has known (even better than us) about these abuses for at least four years and knows very well what the families of the sea tragedies' victims and we have gone through all this time - about the continual harassment, intimidation and the systematic destruction of our lives. Yet, for as many years, we've been left to fend ourselves against revenge-seeking criminals. It is true that the Royal Family have shown us their support from time to time, and we are deeply grateful for their encouragement, especially during the hostile Labour regime, and for the hope that when the Tories returned to power our troubles would end. [*] 

However, so far, no amendment has been signed or word has been delivered in our favour, and things for all concerned have gone from bad to worse. (We understand that, at the same time, the phone-hacking saga and other associated political pressures have caused Her Majesty’s government a lot of discomfiture and that, therefore, promises cannot be honoured on time.) Yet, we would very much like to know why such outrageous abuses can get ignored for so long and the rules of morality kept so long in suspense.

Of course, our Head of State is now very old; so, perhaps in asking such questions now there’s hardly any point - if there’s ever been one.

UPDATE 1: We have been offered wonderful career prospects in Scotland to shut up.

UPDATE 2: Well, it appears that Her Majesty is quite happy for the UK’s justice system to be abused for political reasons, when the reasons suit Her Majesty's Tory Party. Blair and the New Labour Party have been condemned for their opportunistic, 'ends justify the means' methods, only for the same methods to be now embraced by the Royals themselves (and without any honourable ends). What a shame!

CONCLUSION: If Her Majesty told the truth openly to her Majesty's servants, rather than only in secret, a lot of harm done to a lot of people could be repaired and further harm prevented.
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[*] We did not quite understand what the US administration had to do with the cover-up of all this wrongdoing, but we can easily venture a guess.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The whole extensive mess

Having reviewed materials related to the matters published here, I was reminded once again of the bigger and much more detailed picture than the one sketched on this blog. I felt taken aback at the sight of all the sordid details behind the series of maritime investigations and official dealings of the recent past.
The cynicism permeating some of this evidence is breathtaking. Such details may be too crude for this site, or for me personally to delve into. The significant facts are there, unalterable, and, I hope, able to convey the truth while sparing you the most debasing aspects.

And there is still much to tell. The corruption of the legal process and formality has gone on for a while and on what you may call an industrial scale. A consistent committment to deception and fraud has been the only solid thing in the fluid mess of unethical and unprincipled conduct.

Having suffered too many humiliations, justice is now too frail to be of much use to those finally finding out that they have been deprived of their rights; the various forms of legalistic chicanery that are in operation today serve merely as weapons in the warfare between rival sections of the elite. And, furthermore, there is no political will to reinstate the rule of law when those at the top would be likely to fall on the wrong side of it. The public has to take this task upon itself.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Another whistleblower

Apart from the naval architect whose disclosures have been published on this blog over the last five years, the Department for Transport, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency more precisely, were blessed with another whistleblower. The latter, Mr Jayan Pillai, an article in the Private Eye (see below) informs us, raised concerns about the MCA’s flexible approach towards the registration of ships with fire-fighting arrangements that fell short of the international seagoing safety standards.

The Department has not owned up to anything yet and has decided to fight them both - a move, which, we suspect, is going to be associated with a lot of mess.

 (article c/o Private Eye, No.1300, 28 October 2011)

The DfT/MCA, it seems, have made rather a hobby of plastering over the cracks, and, although in a small MCA branch there once existed two whistleblowers, within the organisation itself, there is certainly scope for many more.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Greece Bailout


"A person needs a little madness, or else they never dare cut the rope and be free," N. Kazantzakis

Monday, October 31, 2011

Trident re-visited

A few days ago, it was announced in the press that relatives of the Trident tragedy victims received the backing of Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond in their fight to have the findings of Trident RFI overturned.

We wish them success; there are undoubtedly strong grounds for a review of the RFI, which, in terms of blatancy, was an even worse miscarriage of justice than the 2004 Gaul investigation. 

We shall see what we shall see.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Export Goods

Nobody enjoys reminiscing about an old acquaintance as much as I do – especially when the acquaintance in question played an important role in the Department for Transport under the last Labour regime.

The legal proceedings that we started against the government – referred to in our previous posts – came to a stage when witness testimonies were called for and, as the whole action hinged upon our disclosures about the Gaul, the Derbyshire and the Trident investigations, we thought it beneficial to ask the Head of Shipping Policy in the DfT, Mrs Theresa Crossley, to contribute her inside knowledge to the case. (You will remember Mrs Crossley as the official who answered our more recent Freedom of Information requests in respect of the Derbyshire RFI.)

Well, to our disappointment and surprise, when we looked for her, we found that she was no longer there - she had been exported to Lisbon. Yes, as the March 2010 copy of the European Maritime Safety Agency’s newsletter informs us, on 16 February 2010, Theresa Crossley was amply rewarded with an appointment as head of the Department ‘B’, ‘Implementation’, in EMSA. That made our witness, from the UK legal action point of view, out of reach. We offered to pay her costs to either come to the UK or give a sworn statement from Lisbon, but were refused point blank. This was really a pity, given her tenure of the DfT key management post all through the turbulent years of the Gaul and the Trident RFIs. Just like us, Mrs Crossley knows very well where the whitened bones of the murdered formal investigations lay buried.  Amongst other similarly serious matters. Unlike us, she's not going to make a full disclosure.


It seems that EMSA has a penchant for collecting UK personnel with knowledge about the miscarriages of justice perpetrated under Labour. Is this pure coincidence or is it something akin to a collector’s fascination with artefacts of the past?

(More to come)

Friday, September 09, 2011

Broken Government

I have written before on this blog about the campaign to have the results of past formal inquiries (starting with the one held into the loss of the trawler Gaul) into several maritime casualties reviewed. These inquiries resulted in miscarriages of justice, which were the handiwork of the past labour government.

Years ago, I received the most credible and respectable assurances that the Conservative administration would sort these things out. 

Well, that has certainly not been the case. Cameron’s government shows no appetite in upholding the law. Rioters on the streets of London were fair game, Establishment figures are, however, a completely different matter – especially when their crimes lead to the powerful Mr Blair and his allies.

Having been persecuted by officialdom for blowing the whistle about the FV Gaul farce, we have taken the government to court. We hope that the information which we will bring to light will do some good in restoring justice in this case as well as in others.

But it is not going to be easy. Mr Cameron, so willing before the 2010 election to attack Labour and be indignant about what we exposed - in fact, mercenarily, Cameron’s Conservatives even considered using the Gaul scandal as electoral ammunition in 2010 [*] - has now been mollified. Recently his government has even started to raise obstacles and put pressure on us so as to make us abandon the court case, which harms the prime minister’s current interests. All done to protect Murdoch.

Mr Cameron is in no mind to address the wrongdoing committed by Labour … he has the phone-hacking saga to worry about right now. (And he seems determined to cover that one up, no matter the costs.) The appalling miscarriages of justice that took place under Labour and the misery of those who have been affected by the maritime tragedies referred to on this blog are being used by Cameron’s government to parry attacks from Labour - thus trading misfortune for short-term political gain.

Yes, it is as squalid as that, and there is still more to add. However, what is most shocking is that all this is going on with the acquiescence (and any recent appearance to the contrary is nothing but theatre) of the very top of the British Establishment. There is, at the moment, no public authority that one can trust or that deserves to be trusted.

(More to come)
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[*] But more about what happened at that time, in a different post


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sufficient for the DfT

Following on from our post of 1 August 2011, which referred to the Trident families’ FOI request addressed to the DfT, the search for the missing video footage of the NMI model tests on FV Trident continues [LINK]. However, the DfT, as solicitous as ever, appear to think that a couple of blurred snapshots taken from the 1976 cine film should be sufficient to satisfy anyone who has the audacity to be interested in that research:

Part of the DfT letter dated 19 August 2011

We beg to differ and consider that the comments made by Professor Dahle, in the written discussion that followed the formal presentation of this research at RINA in 1979, show both the importance and the relevance of this research to the investigation into the loss of the Trident:

Comments by Professor Dahle cited in Tony Morrall’s 1979 paper

(More to come)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lessons from the street

Suddenly, though not quite unpredictably, infernal images of mayhem and rampant law breaking, pouring out from all of the media channels, have shocked our senses. The young generation out of control – the product of 13 years of Labour regime were out on the streets, ready to devour their elders and burn down everything in their path. The moral relativism of the New Labour era and their overarching ‘the ends justify the means’ philosophy have come home to roost.

Was it not Labour who told the poor that neither academic achievement nor a better upbringing exempted one from ‘equality’ with the rest? Were they not promised that there would be no losers? The biggest sin of the Labour dogma was that it prevented its believers from knowing themselves. This led to unfulfilled expectations and, then, the self-hatred trying to cure itself through self-destruction and the destruction of others.

Yet, the moral decay has not been confined to deprived areas or to the periphery of large and affluent urban centres, where upmarket glamour and fashion collapse into vulgarity; it has infiltrated many other quarters.
The rabble recently seen flooding the streets of London has its matches at other levels of society, for the reckless cruelty and irresponsibility of a teenage looter is not unrelated to that within the less riotous social layers.


Is there any difference between an illiterate thug robbing the injured and a government minister or other Establishment figure cheating a defenceless widow out of her rights? Have we not seen the callous irresponsibility of some of our public servants who would consciously put human lives at risk just to please a political master and secure a promotion or some advantage for themselves?
Young people, deprived of a humanist education, have learned that getting what you want means bending the law. The notion that playing by the rules is only for losers has, however, been established by today’s elite.

If we are to become a more responsible nation and accept the consequences of our actions, which we must, then that should necessarily start from the top. If authority is to be respected, that authority has to be made respectable first.

So, now that we, at last, have a sane government in power, we should ask them the question: when are those hardened criminals amongst the elite going to be rounded up and held to account for their actions?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Confirmation bias

In 1975 in the aftermath of the Gaul and Trident disasters the Department of Trade decided to sponsor a program of research at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), to try and discover why two well found fishing vessels had suddenly capsized and sank with significant loss of life. This research would focus on stability issues and would be carried out by the ship division of the NPL (subsequently renamed the National Maritime Institute, NMI), one of the world’s leading maritime test establishments at that time.


Scale models of the Gaul and the Trident hulls were then built and subjected to a program of sea keeping tests in waves of varying magnitude; their behaviour in different conditions was filmed, documented and analysed. Unfortunately, the outcome from this research was initially kept under wraps by the DOT, until, in 1979-80, Dr Tony Morrall (NMI) was allowed to publish two brief technical papers, through the Royal Institution of Naval Architects. The two papers gave an edited overview of the NMI’s research/conclusions for the two vessels and video footage from the NMI tests was shown, although the identity of the Trident was concealed:
  1. ‘Capsizing of small trawlers’ published at a RINA meeting in Glasgow on February 20 1979 (N.B. The Trident was not identified within this report; it was merely referred to as ‘trawler A’)
  1. ‘The Gaul disaster: an investigation into the loss of a Large Stern Trawler’ -  published at a RINA meeting in London on April 15 1980
In brief, the conclusion from the NMI research about the loss of the Trident was that she had capsized in moderate sea conditions because she had insufficient stability, while the conclusion about the loss of the Gaul was that she had capsized because of severe weather conditions in conjunction with some unknown circumstance such as internal flooding, which had degraded her inherent stability reserves. [1]

Following the discovery of both wrecks and the decision to re-open both formal investigations (RFI), the DfT’s experts dusted down and sifted through the NMI’s research folders and decided that:
  • The NMI research data on the loss of the Gaul, had yielded the ‘right’ answers, as far as the DfT was concerned, and therefore could be utilised as evidence during the Gaul RFI. In fact in their marine accident report no. 4/99, the MAIB went as far as praising the NMI’s research as being “a comprehensive and ambitious project lasting two and a half years”. Video footage of the NMI tests together with the Morrall research paper were considered to be new and important evidence for the purposes of the Gaul RFI hearings in 2004
  •  Unfortunately, the NMI research data on the loss of the Trident (which had an identical pedigree to that of the Gaul) had yielded the ‘wrong’ answers, as far as the DfT was concerned, and was therefore deemed to be unsuitable for a public airing or disclosure during the Trident RFI.
Thereafter, in 2005 the DfT allegedly shredded the Trident research folders and in the RFI hearings of 2010, the Advocate General and her experts together with the Aberdeen Sheriff summarily dismissed the NMI research data (see below):

Pages 188-90 Trident RFI - transcripts of evidence 12/7/2010:

The above exchanges between Mr Thomson, the counsel for the Trident families, and Sheriff Young, where rational argument is being summarily dismissed by ridicule, do not cast the Sheriff in a favourable light.

While the DfT and its associates have been keen to disregard and discard the Trident’s NMI research data with its inconvenient conclusion regarding stability, the Trident families have not, as yet, been convinced [LINK] by this official obfuscation.

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[1] In our posts of 1 January 2010 and 8 February 2010 we revealed that the DOT/Owners had estimated the Gaul’s stability reserves for her last voyage to be greater than was reasonably justifiable. This ‘enhanced’ level of stability was also specified by the DOT for the model used in the Gaul NMI tests, the test results would undoubtedly have been influenced by this factor.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Stability standards for scallop dredgers - Solway Harvester and Olivia Jean

On 10 October 2009, a crewmember onboard the scallop dredger Olivia Jean was injured when a trawl wire parted and he was hit by a falling bridle. The fisherman sustained chest injuries and was subsequently airlifted to hospital

Following that accident the MAIB carried out a detailed safety audit onboard the Olivia Jean and a number of regulatory non-compliances, including stability deficiencies, were identified,

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) were notified and they also inspected the vessel; however, they subsequently permitted the Olivia Jean to continue fishing even though the official limits in her trim and stability book were regularly being exceeded [1].

As a consequence, the MAIB issued Safety Bulletin No 1/2010, which called on the Olivia Jean’s owner to cease fishing operations immediately and on the MCA to:
Ensure that the stability of Olivia Jean (TN 35) is verified and all safety critical limitations are applied before allowing further fishing operations to take place

The release of this safety bulletin, critical of MCA, was an unusual action for the MAIB to take as generally both MAIB and MCA worked together and supported one another (both being part of the maritime section of the Department for Transport).

Perhaps the MAIB were remembering previous scallop dredger losses – the Pescado in 1991 (where six men died) and the Solway Harvester in 2000 (where seven men died) and were concerned that stability deficiencies on yet another scallop dredger could lead to another tragedy.

The MAIB would also have been mindful of the fact that in 2006 when they had published the Solway Harvester report they had been obliged, once again [2], to tidy up a mess left for them by MCA, which they did by skipping over the Solway Harvester’s stability deficiencies.

Stability Standards

Extracts from the MAIB’s casualty reports for the Olivia Jean and the Solway Harvester are reproduced below, where the stability of each vessel has been assessed by MAIB for compliance with minimum stability standards.

Olivia Jean


MAIB’s stability assessment - they compared Olivia Jean’s actual stability reserves against the official stability minima (ringed in purple); these minimum criteria include the 20% stability enhancement that is required for scallop dredgers. In the example shown here, the Olivia Jean fails to meet the required stability standard in the ‘depart grounds’ sailing condition.

Solway Harvester – stability curve for the loss condition

The Solway Harvester’s marginal stability reserves and poor GZ values are clearly visible from this curve:


MAIB’s stability assessment – they compared the Solway Harvester’s estimated stability reserves against the minimum stability criteria ringed in purple above; however, these minimum stability criteria, chosen by the MAIB for comparison purposes, are different from the criteria they used for the Olivia Jean – they are the wrong criteria as they do not include the 20% stability enhancement that is required for scallop dredgers and beam trawlers. However, by comparing the Solway Harvester’s stability values against a lower stability standard, the MAIB were able to say that she ‘passed’ the requirements (the figures reveal a marginal pass of the lesser stability standard).

The MAIB were aware that they were on shaky ground here and, when they published their report on the Solway Harvester’s loss, the important part within their report - where the minimum stability criteria were identified - was barely legible as well as very carefully worded.

They talk about “compliance with regulations”, yet they do not identify which specific regulations the vessel allegedly ‘passed’.
It certainly didn’t meet the regulations applicable to scallop dredgers (i.e. Rule 16 of the Fishing Vessels Safety Provisions Rules 1975 with the 20% increase in stability for fishing vessels engaged in twin boom fishing).

Moreover, it is also highly likely that, given the number of questionable assumptions made by the MAIB in their calculations for the Solway Harvester’s loss condition, she did not even comply with the lesser stability standards either.

Solway Harvester

In the above image (c/o STV website), the Solway Harvester can be seen sailing in a deeply laden condition where her freeboard and stability reserves are clearly suspect. In the above image, the blue arrow indicates the position of her watertight main deck – only just above the sea-surface.

It should be noted that Solway Harvester’s design allowed seawater to freely enter the non-weathertight steel enclosures and wash across her decks.

If, as shown in the sketch below, the non-weathertight enclosures are removed, the watertight hull and three-weathertight superstructures become apparent. The main deck is only just above the sea-surface (arrowed) and thus, when the above photo was taken, the only things keeping the vessel afloat and upright at that time were the meagre buoyancy reserves provided by the small part of her hull above seawater and the three small superstructures.

MAIB report no. 1/2006

Concluding remarks

If, on 11 January 2000, the Solway Harvester had complied fully with official stability standards it is just possible that, she would not have succumbed to the weather and capsized with the loss of all onboard.

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[1] The MCA have sole responsibility for statutory surveys, stability approval and the issue of fishing vessel safety certification on UK fishing vessels.
[2] The MAIB have had to investigate and report on a number of fishing vessel casualties where the MCA’s ‘light regulatory touch’ has been an obvious factor in the loss.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Labour Party Hypermetropia

In our post of 9 June 2011, we revealed the email sent to Mr Ed Miliband in relation to the miscarriages of justice and the ugly cover-ups, which took place while his party was in power.

Naturally, we have received no reply. The Labour leader, it seems, has been far too busy rising with virtuous indignation against the right-wing press and its terrible misdemeanours to be able to clean up his own backyard.

This is, of course, a well-known Labour affliction whose debilitating symptoms allow them only to see things, selectively, in the distance. And so, the greater the moral insalubrity within their own ranks, the greater and noisier the tenacity with which they follow and criticise others.

Today, Mr Miliband has made some grandiloquent statements; he condemned the irresponsibility of the powerful and their belief in being untouchable. All this sounds very nice, indeed, were it not meant to apply only to his political adversaries and their connections. Like his own party, Mr Miliband, alas, shows great difficulty in focusing on those rather more unpleasant matters that are right there under his nose.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Solway Harvester

The Solway Harvester was a scallop dredger that capsized and sank on 11 January 2000 with the tragic loss of her seven crew members.

The standards of stability that the Solway Harvester should have satisfied at the time of her loss are indicated in red in the following DOT letter:


Unfortunately, the Solway Harvester was unable to meet these official minimum standards.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

More apologies needed


So, when shall we expect the apologies to the families of the Gaul, Derbyshire and Trident victims?

Friday, July 01, 2011

Balancing commercial interests with safety

“DfT seeks to ensure that the UK shipping industry remains a major player globally…and that the UK balances commercial interests with safety”  –    http://www.dft.gov.uk/shipping/

In our posts of 1 Jan 2010 and 8 Feb 2010 we discussed how the stability of the Gaul had been adversely affected by modifications to two of her double bottom seawater ballast tanks - modifications carried out by the Gaul’s owners to enable her to carry more fuel oil and thus be able to spend more time fishing at sea. The modifications were performed after her delivery from Brooke Marine in 1972, when she was named Ranger Castor, before she was sold on to British United Trawlers (Hellyer Brothers) and renamed the Gaul.

We also mentioned that during the original public inquiry of 1974, the DOT (now DfT) went to great lengths to ensure that the Gaul’s stability deficiencies, which resulted from these tank modifications, did not become the focus of the public inquiry. We suggested in our posts that, because of the errors they had made during their stability review, the DOT were uncomfortable with the possibility that stability deficiencies could be cited as a factor in the Gaul’s loss.

A copy of the official Stability certificate for the Gaul (when she was known as the Ranger Castor) (Crown copyright)
 
However, there was another compelling motive behind the DOT’s desire to deflect attention from the Gaul’s fuel tank issue and that was the fact that the change in use for these two tanks was instigated and carried out at a time when the Ranger Castor (Gaul) was owned and operated by the P&O Group - the UK’s ferry, ports and cruise ship operator.

The ballast tank modifications were unauthorised; they led to significant reductions in Gaul’s operational stability and they rendered the DOT’s stability approval certificate and the Gaul’s onboard stability information invalid (see second paragraph in the certificate above).

In 1974, as is the case today, the DOT’s ‘balance’ seemed to be weighted more in favour of big business than with the interests of the Gaul’s surviving relatives. The DOT would have been very reluctant to see P&O, one of the UK’s most prestigious companies, being sued for a negligent act [1], one that was potentially a crucial factor in the deaths of 36 fishermen.

The P&O Group were eventually broken up and sold on and today are no longer British-owned: the cruise business was taken over by the Carnival Corporation [2] in 2003, while the ferries and ports business was sold to DP World [3] in 2006.

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[1] An unauthorised modification that allowed the (Ranger Castor) Gaul to carry fuel oil in her ballast tanks without a concurrent check on her stability amounted to negligence on the part of her owners

[2] British and American owned company with Carnival UK (P&O cruises) in the role of junior partner

[3] Dubai Ports group of companies

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Email to Ed Miliband


UPDATE: And, as a result, the government is, in turn, putting pressure on us to drop our legal case. More details to come ...

Thursday, June 02, 2011

HM Courts and Tribunals

Following up from our post of 25 May 2011, we can now advise that the Case Management Discussion (CMD) mentioned there took place on the 27th of May, as scheduled.

The Department for Transport (and the MCA), the Respondents in the case, always liberal with taxpayers’ money, had hired a top-notch lawyer for the event. This barrister (who also sits as a judge) - a slightly fresher version of Justice Eady - has recently been given notoriety by the Daily Mail – as a gagger.

The CMD, unbefittingly called a ‘discussion’, consisted of the Respondents’ Counsel giving directions to the judge and the judge showing little resistance in following them, while the Claimant, accommodated with ostensibly dissimulated impatience, was hardly allowed to speak. The barrister hired by the DfT looked so upset that it was hard to believe that he was simply acting on the government’s behalf. The judiciary may have been closing ranks, we reckoned, bearing in mind that the Claimant’s disclosures have cast doubt on the integrity of a number of prominent figures within the judicial brotherhood.

What felt stranger, however, was the impression we got that the judge presiding over the CMD seemed somehow afraid of the government’s Counsel, and even took the cue from him as to when to take a break and when to adjourn.
Their plan was to remove the DfT from the proceedings, probably, so as to cut short the liability chain and ‘ring-fence’ the wrongdoing at some junior level within the MCA. Warned that trying to push her arguments forward will be sanctioned by the Court, the Claimant’s representative used the few moments when she was directed to give yes or no answers to a couple of questions to try to object to the Tribunal’s steamroller technique. At one such moment, she tried to suggest that not only the DfT, but also the Crown and former DPM John Prescott should be added as Respondents, a suggestion that was met with instant opposition from the judge and an indignant snort from the DfT’s barrister. The matter, however, was left unresolved.

Further on, the DfT’s Counsel demanded that a deposit be paid before the full hearing so as to make the access to justice more difficult – justice, it seems, is not a luxury for the plebs. The opposing party was prepared to do anything to prevent a full hearing where evidence, witness testimonies and the thorny matter of the Gaul could be heard in open court.

The end of the CMD was marked by the DfT’s Counsel delivering a diatribe against his opponent and the judge’s failure to intervene or to allow the Claimant to respond.
A pre-hearing review has been scheduled for the 11th of July and a full hearing for the 17th of October. But we very much doubt that there is much to expect from our justice system. The whole thing is rotten to the core.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Closed Justice

In our previous post we revealed that the Department for Transport is being sued under the Public Disclosures Act. A Case Management Discussion will take place at the Southampton Tribunal this Friday, when the date for a full hearing will be appointed.

Anyway, about three months ago, one of the solicitors we met told us that it was very likely that the hearing will be held in Camera – i.e. in private and not in open court like everybody else. We were not explained the reasons for that. Anyway, this was an extraordinary thing to hear. Why should such secrecy be necessary? What would our government have to hide?

***

Amidst the recent furore about judicial excesses and abuses concerning the ‘right’ to privacy, we could not miss the news about John Prescott’s keen interest in press injunctions proven by his attendance at the Commons debate on the subject as well as by his opposition to any reform of the libel laws, which he expressed so fluently in the House of Lords the other day. (LINK).

(More to come...)


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The oncoming Court case


Whistleblowing case - concerning miscarriages of justice + cover-up 

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Privacy or the latest protection racket

"Have you ever wished that something in your life had never happened, just call 0800 …today, and we can help you" - this is the kind of advert that we could expect the High Court of Justice to place in the national press any day now.

Confusing privacy, perhaps, with clandestinity, our High Court judges now offer tailor-made injunctions that can conceal the misbehaviour of any celebrity or other well-heeled public figure, who has the wherewithal to pay for this privilege.
Reminiscent of the medieval church practice of selling indulgences for the forgiveness of sins, our courts are now providing much more than mere pardons for human transgressions, they are erasing their very existence - by self-ordained powers, which places members of the judiciary on an equal footing with God.

Recently, our judges have even devised tools that will gag you so effectively that you will not be even able to say that you have been gagged. So, upon having been granted a super-injunction, the supplicant, sporting a cloak of invisibility whenever it suits, will be able to maintain his respectable status as if nothing had happened, while the rest of society will be kept in blissful ignorance of its role models’ real credentials. And, when they have enough finance to pay for the enhanced, premium service – a super- contra mundum injunction, that will rival the ubiquity of God’s powers, can ensure that no one will ever be able criticise them in English or in any other language on Earth.


The sad fact, however, is that our courts are not protecting the privacy of the solitary, the vulnerable or the wrongfully maligned; they are just making the law with a view to protecting the elite from the public exposure that would make it difficult for the law enforcement authorities to keep their eyes closed. (I remember one senior Met officer once telling me, in respect of our complaint, "If the newspapers don’t write about it, it cannot be true".)

The right to freedom of speech and the principle of open justice in Britain seem to come second to the rights of some to sweep their faults under the carpet. The long-term consequences of this state of affairs cannot be yet fully appraised, nor is anybody able to tell when it was that we first started to allow our justice system to go so madly astray.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

GIGO

In our post of 4 August 2010 we provided details of how the ‘Joint Panel of Experts’ (JPE) had, in the Trident Re-opened Formal Investigation (RFI), slyly manipulated official data in order to modify the Trident’s indicated reserves of stability. Subsequently, in our post of 28 February 2011, after reviewing the evidence and conclusions that emerged from the Trident RFI we refuted Sheriff Young’s final report. As a follow up to those posts, we would now like to re-emphasise the following critical factors and add further details:

The Sheriff’s conclusions, as to why the Trident was lost, were merely an endorsement of the views of the ‘joint panel of experts’, who, in turn, had based their own conclusions upon the results of a series of model tests carried out on a ‘scale version’ of FV Trident by MARIN in Holland. Unfortunately, it is now evident that the stability characteristics of the Trident model (- constructed to meet the JPE’s technical specification), as tested by MARIN, did not correspond or correlate with the stability characteristics of the Trident on her final voyage.

Thus, most of the ‘new’ evidence and ‘expert analysis’, that was aired at great length throughout the Court proceedings in 2009/10, and which underpinned the Sheriff’s final conclusions, was based upon a fallacy:

 – i.e. that the observed capsize behaviour of the RFI’s ‘scale’ model in waves, would accurately replicate Trident’s capsize in 1974.

The principal incongruity between the JPE/RFI model of the Trident and the Trident herself relates to her calculated lightship and deadweight particulars. The JPE’s estimates for both lightship and deadweight differ significantly from those that were utilised in previous official investigations.

The original formal investigation (OFI)

In 1974/5, in the absence of reliable and accurate data [1] as to Trident’s displacement and the position of her centre of gravity, the official investigating panel decided to obtain such data by carrying out an inclining experiment on the Trident’s sister vessel (Silver Lining). The experiment they carried out was an official inclining test in that it was performed under controlled conditions and was witnessed and supervised by the Department of Transport (DOT) and the owner’s consultant. The data the test provided was valid for both Trident and Silver Lining. Detailed comparative calculations were subsequently carried out and this enabled more or less definitive values for the Trident’s lightship and deadweight to be obtained.

The information derived by official investigators in 1974/5 was thus the best that was available at that time and it was obtained using calculation procedures that were accurate and accepted internationally. In fact, the same calculation procedures are invariably used to obtain stability data for ships today.

The re-opened formal investigation (RFI)

Thirty years later, even though they had no additional or more accurate sources of data, the JPE decided to come up with new estimates for Trident’s displacement, centre of gravity and deadweight, estimates which, co-incidentally, would favour a no-liability outcome - always preferred by our officials.

We have checked through their calculations and can advise that, in addition to noting a number of dubious assumptions and approximations, the JPE have utilised inappropriate source data [2] to arrive at something they call ‘a best mean estimate’ for the Trident’s lightship and deadweight at the time of her loss.

Unfortunately, in arriving at this ‘best mean estimate’ the ‘experts’ have deliberately ignored accurate data of known provenance (the official inclining experiment on Silver Lining), using instead data that had been recognized to be valueless. In fact, during the 1975 formal investigation, when the DOT Surveyor was presented with inclining check information (similar to that used by the JPE), he gave the response which can now be read in the OFI transcripts of evidence:

OFI Day 10 (page 2)

Q. – I think that you have endeavoured to discover whether, from the figures there, any useful information can be obtained to assist the court to carry out an exercise to determine the stability characteristics of the Trident
A. - Yes
Q. - Are you able from those figures to obtain any assistance at all?
A. – It is my considered opinion that on examination of this particular document which has been presented to me that it is of no value at all to this court.

Thus the rough inclining data used by the JPE to determine Trident’s stability for the RFI was also available to, and rejected by, official investigators in 1974/5. However, it is this discredited data that has enabled the JPE to calculate better stability reserves for Trident than was actually the case.
The Sheriff’s conclusions as to why Trident capsized are thus based upon test results from a model that was not a true representation of Trident. This, in our view, renders the outcome from the RFI invalid.

(To be continued)
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[1] Although the vessel’s designer had carried out a number of rough inclining checks on both Trident and her sister the ‘Silver lining’, the sketchy records that survived from these tests were of no real practical value as they lacked detail, did not exhibit the required degree of accuracy and essential data was either omitted or not recorded.

NB: For an inclining experiment to yield realistic and valid data, it has to be conducted by competent personnel, follow strict procedures and generate accurate measurements and data for use in centre of gravity and displacement calculations.  For UK fishing vessels, built since 1975, inclining experiments are required to be conducted by qualified consultants and be witnessed by the (DOT(MCA)) the authority responsible for reviewing and approving the vessel’s stability.

[2] In 1974/5, official investigators quite properly rejected the same rough data that was resurrected and utilised by the JPE to estimate the lightship and deadweight particulars (and stability) of Trident for the MARIN model tests.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Justice Removed

“Justice removed, then what are kingdoms but great bands of robbers” (Augustine, City of God)

In our post of 30 January 2011, we mentioned the fact that we had finally commenced legal action against the Government (the DfT, MCA etc.) and that our complaints revolved around the Government’s refusal to address, openly and honestly, the disclosures about the Gaul and the other miscarriages of justice and cover-ups.

However, in the process of fighting against past miscarriages of justice, we are becoming increasingly suspicious that new abuses and inequities may be taking place in order to obscure the old ones.

To be more precise, we found that, first of all, hiring legal advice was for us a major problem, in that most of the law firms we approached – and we contacted quite a few – were initially very keen to take on our case, then, suddenly and inexplicably, lost heart just before clinching the deal. The name of the Gaul seems to have acted as a powerful deterrent for our prospective lawyers. On many occasions we were surprised to note that, although not yet familiar with the merits of our case or with any of the evidence supporting it, many law firms told us that we were not going to win. Others simply avoided looking at our documents or even attending a previously agreed appointment in person, and, only hours after genuinely showing themselves quite optimistic and well disposed towards accepting our custom, many solicitor’s feet turned cold. Others’ brief advice was so implausible that it almost made us laugh.

We couldn’t understand this curious behaviour displayed by a group usually well known for their lack of inhibitions. It is possible, of course, that they knew something else that they wouldn’t tell and that such knowledge had not been gained through divination.
But it would be amazing, wouldn’t it, if we were to learn that some invisible, political force had offered them guidance?

Some time ago we were given a clearer answer when a solicitor informed us that a court’s ruling in our favour “would be unpopular with the powers that be” and that we would not be allowed to succeed. How extraordinary! Is there a judicial mafia in this country that decides the outcome of legal cases before they come to court? Would the fact that the Gaul saga touches unpleasantly upon the integrity of the judiciary make the legal profession gang up against this case?

Anyway, we have eventually managed to find a less fearful solicitor and a most competent one as well – whom we keep, though, at a safe distance so as to protect him from the noxious fumes of this lawsuit - and we are now toddling along curious to see what further abuses this poor kingdom can accommodate.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Deal-hacking

When a profound ethical issue is under consideration, John Prescott is the best person to have joining in the debate. Well seasoned in political street battles, Mr Prescott knows very well that a lot can be achieved in life through roughness, broil and threats. And, since he was admitted in the House of Lords, his eloquence has been provided with an even higher platform from which to demonstrate its power and, most recently, to voice his anger against perceived infringements to his privacy.


What a pity Lord Prescott has not been similarly incensed by the Gaul and the Derbyshire miscarriages of justice that followed the tragedies in which many seamen - some from his very own constituency town of Hull - lost their lives; instead, he shows himself much disturbed by the hacking of a few cellular phones. (Not ours, of course, which have been monitored for about eight years now due to our blowing the whistle on the above-mentioned affairs, but those owned by a number of light entertainment celebrities.)

Of course, there is enjoyment to be derived from hitting at a Conservative government’s interests and the jubilation of the primal, aggressive instinct against the aristocracy of the spirit; however, judging by the vehemence displayed, there must be some other, supplementary motivation behind Lord Prescott’s recent outbursts.

In the House of Lords debate on the phone-hacking saga, alongside Baron Prescott, Lord Fowler, Minister for Transport in the 80s, was also boiling with indignation.
What a coincidence! Does having held a portfolio at the Department for Transport turn one into a fighter for the right to privacy, or is there a different commonality at play?
Lord Fowler even went as far as asking the government to give an assurance that there will be an inquiry into “how scandals of this kind can be prevented”. What scandals did he mean? And why prevent them? We should maybe try to prevent their causes, but, when we can't, scandals must always be welcome.

So, now, it seems, we are going to have our government’s endurance and probity tested and, unfortunately, we are not going to be the only ones watching the results of this test.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

FV Trident RFI – short memory

"We've met, but you don't remember me. I worked for a company you hired to have part of your memory erased." (Quote from the movie "The eternal sunshine of the spotless mind")

No, we have not abandoned the subject of the Trident RFI, and, as far as we are concerned, this matter is far from over. But we must take one thing at a time.

We have already commented on the response received from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch of the DfT following our request for their report that recommended the Secretary of State for Transport to re-open of the Trident inquiry.

In that response dated 15 December 2010, the MAIB provided us with a ‘draft’ summary report on the loss of the Trident and stated that they had no evidence in their files "that the MAIB made a recommendation to the Secretary of State that the Formal Investigation should be re-opened."

From their end, the Department for Transport have now advised us that they had also been unable to locate the document containing the recommendations made by the Chief Inspector of MAIB to the Secretary of State for Transport, prior to the latter’s order to resurrect the investigation. (According to the Merchant Shipping Act a re-opening of a formal investigation is only mandatory if ‘new and important’ evidence comes to light.)

Thus, we were amazed to learn that, at a time when the Trident RFI had not yet been closed, the government had no record of why they had opened it in the first place.
From what we have seen, it looks as though the inquiry was re-opened in order to produce the very evidence necessary as grounds for re-opening the inquiry.

So, why was £6mil spent on re-hearing the Trident formal investigation in its entirety? In our view, the inspection of the wreck did not invalidate, but added extra certainty to the original conclusions of the 1975 OFI. These conclusions were further validated by the NMI model tests, which, relative to the OFI, also constituted new and important evidence. Would it therefore not have been better to make all the historic evidence public, re-open the inquiry for one day, at a small fraction of the costs incurred, and re-state the findings of the OFI, this time, with a greater degree of confidence?

Would it also not have been better if the money spent on legal fees and manufacturing evidence had been used to compensate the victims’ families?

Friday, March 25, 2011

The routine of deception

On its own, the recent miscarriage of justice perpetrated in FV Trident inquiry was neither inevitable nor particularly worthwhile. However, as an act in a long series of irregularities, the Trident RFI had an important role to play: it served to complete a pattern, inspire a sense of normality into the unlawful actions of the past UK administrations by conveying the message that this is how things are usually done nowadays, and blunt the sensitivity of the public to what once would have been considered an outrage.

The Trident inquiry was not simply about the fact that important evidence was concealed or distorted and fabrication substituted for factual proof in what constituted a conspiracy to defraud the public; no, it was about consecrating the notion that, no longer bound by scientific veracity when deciding their objectives, governments are also free to apply any measure of arbitrariness to official investigations and judicial processes. Government decisions, we are left to infer, are now based on such supreme notions that they can do away with both science and ethical commandments, at the same time.

After the Derbyshire and the Gaul formal investigations, the Trident inquiry was meant to consolidate a routine – the routine of standard deception. Thus, ex- government ministers and other Establishment figures involved in those earlier inquiries could now feel justified in claiming that their actions did not amount to downright fraud, but were merely acts of compliance with an established system - a system which transcends political regimes and which, like many systems nowadays, can never be questioned under caution.

Of course, while governments come and go, many deceptions survive political change by virtue of the old convention that wrongdoing by members of the Establishment should not be revealed to the laity.
However, such deviations from the norms of decency and justice as we have witnessed in recent times are too wide to be described as just ‘the usual Establishment foul play’; they can only be the result of our having been completely supplanted as the main beneficiaries of the State’s actions - the consequence of the fact that, today, the ultimate source of authority is no longer local, is no longer moral and no longer takes its subjects into account.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The MV Derbyshire final report and a self-congratulatory re-write of history

As we have revealed earlier on the MV Derbyshire blog, the 2000 Re-opened Formal Investigation (RFI) into the sinking of the 173,000 tonnes bulk-carrier failed to acknowledge the fact that the vessel’s hatch covers did not meet the minimum strength criteria applicable at the time she was built – a fact highly relevant to the stated cause of her loss.

Apart from circumventing the fact that the Derbyshire did not comply with the applicable standards, via the final report to the Derbyshire RFI, the officials also tried - in a self-congratulating, orgulous manner - to re-construct the history of the events connected with the introduction of the 1966 Load Line Convention.

We were already aware that the Department for Transport had a knack for avoiding the slightest whiff of blame or criticism, but now it appears that, no longer satisfied just with evading trouble, the Department also sought to cast themselves - unduly - in a commendable posture.

The article published today on the MV Derbyshire blog reveals that the account given in the Derbyshire RFI final report as to the UK delegation’s role at the 1966 Load Line Convention Conference was different from actuality. The report tells us that, in the name of maritime safety, the UK delegation fought for increased strength standards for hatch-covers as well as for the introduction of 'tanker freeboards' for ore carriers with steel hatch covers.
The truth, however, is somewhat different: the UK delegation’s primary objective was to obtain backing for a major reduction in freeboards for ore carriers, even smaller than the 'tanker freeboards' that had been allowed under the previous Convention; their proposal for enhanced hatch cover strength was only of secondary importance – merely a concession offered in exchange for the deeper loading they sought.
When the majority of the delegates at the Conference did not accept the UK delegation’s arguments for deeper loading, the Labour [*] government’s envoys lost interest in pursuing enhanced strength standards for hatch-covers. The Derbyshire RFI report erroneously implies that the UK’s proposal for improved hatch cover standards was a mere consolidation of UK’s standard practices prior the 1966 Convention. It was not.

The Derbyshire report also states that "the UK government cannot be criticised for failing to secure an agreement to its proposals" for increased cover strength.
As we have explained in detail HERE we do not agree with this statement. The government could certainly be criticised for the manner in which those proposals were made.
Furthermore, it can also be criticised for subsequently failing to implement the Convention’s provisions for hatch cover strength in their entirety, as well as for misinterpreting the Convention’s minimum requirements for hatch cover strength.

So, at the end of the Derbyshire investigation, there should have been someone to blame - the UK government.

-------------------------------------------------
[*] The Labour government under Harold Wilson

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The MV Derbyshire – re-visited

These are my mates, that make their wills their law. (William Shakespeare, The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Act V, scene iv)

In the four and a half years that we’ve been running this blog, we have highlighted and commented on a multitude of serious ‘anomalies’ associated with the re-opened official inquiries into the sinkings of the trawler Gaul (36 lives lost), the OBO MV Derbyshire (44 lives lost) and most recently in the FV Trident investigation (7 lives lost).

Our studies over the years have exposed a number of common themes running through each of these inquiries, from which, in fact, a clear and recurring pattern has emerged:
  1. Evidence presented in court that could lead to a finding of fault or blame (and which could lead to litigation) was suppressed, while evidence supporting the government’s preferred outcome was promoted. Nonetheless, the possibility of negligence or errors on the part of the crew (who obviously could not defend themselves) was always a theme that the court’s official investigators were happy to explore.
  2. Over many years, public officials have treated the families of the deceased in an offhand, uncaring manner and actively thwarted their aspirations to learn the truth of what had happened and what caused those tragedies.
  3. A number of personnel/experts/organisations have been repeat players in two or more of these public inquiries, while in the field of physical and computer modelling and tank testing the same overseas research facility has always been chosen to deliver crucial technical input to each investigation.
  4. The government (the DfT), although responsible for setting and enforcing safety standards on UK ships, has been effective in distancing itself from even the slightest hint of criticism in each and all of these public inquires
With the above points in mind, and being slightly more cynical now, we thought we would re-visit the Derbyshire 2000 RFI.

On page 17 of its final official report we find that:
the UK Government cannot be criticised for failing to secure agreement…

On page 21 we find that:
This report does not recommend that the UK Government should act unilaterally…

On page 24 we read that:
The long delay […] in organising an underwater survey cannot be the basis of any criticism of the UK Government

And from page 151 we learn that:
…the UK Government cannot be criticised for reaching this solution. The Ministry of Transport and the UK delegation did all that reasonably could be done to obtain agreement to enhanced hatch cover strength.

So that’s it then, the inquiry judge has told us that the DOT, MOT, DETR (or whatever the DfT was known as at that time) cannot be criticised for anything associated with the Derbyshire tragedy.

We are now going to check up on one or two of these points.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

FV Trident RFI - More from the Department for Truth

In a press release issued by the DfT on 24th February 2011, concerning the outcome from the Formal Investigation into the loss of the FV Trident, the Department gave a summary of the Sheriff Principal’s findings, advising us that his report contained:

A complete rejection that a 1976 NMI report provides the answer to the loss of Trident

We have carefully looked through Sheriff Young’s report and noted his comment on the National Maritime Institute’s (NMI) Trident report dated 22 October 1976:

This report was the subject only of brief passing references during the inquiry

We have also noted that a subsequent technical paper, released to the public in 1979 by Dr A. Morrall and entitled "Capsizing of small Trawlers", repeated a substantial part of Dr. Morrall’s earlier NMI work, and that it was only this published paper that was examined by the Court in, as the Sheriff puts it, "considerable detail in the course of the evidence".

Yet, the Sheriff ventures to form an opinion on the NMI report from, presumably, a mere examination of this later technical paper:

In my opinion the NMI report is of no assistance to this court in explaining the loss of the Trident.

So we are left to conclude that the Sheriff’s weakly stated opinion, based upon his examination of a similar but different document, amounts to, in the DfT’s words, a "complete rejection".

Notes:

1. The 1976 NMI report contained a number of important conclusions that were not carried over into Dr. Morrall’s subsequent public report, one of which is reproduced below:

later experiments in which either displacement or GM were increased proved conclusively that the hull shape itself was not at fault but rather its weight distribution which produced an unfavourable value of GM [i.e. an unfavourable position for the Trident’s vertical centre of gravity VCG * ]

2. The complete Trident intact stability research folder, which included tank test video evidence from the National Maritime Institute, was allegedly destroyed by the DfT in 2005. 

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* The position of the VCG on the Trident was unknown at the time of her capsize, as an inclining experiment was not carried out on completion and prior to her departure from the building yard.

Monday, February 28, 2011

FV Trident RFI - A question


We have a question that nobody seems willing to answer and which is: why nobody from the Department for Transport, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, MAIB and the former DOT was ever called to give evidence under oath during the Trident RFI hearings?

FV Trident RFI - a costly farce


The Trident RFI followed the same script as the Gaul RFI - to the letter.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

FV Trident RFI - “No evidence was led at the inquiry…”


Perhaps the most important question for the RFI, once it had established that the Trident had capsized in sea conditions that were not exceptional and that her intact stability was deficient, was whether full compliance with the IMCO minimum stability standard would have prevented Trident’s capsize and the loss of seven lives.

Unfortunately, this was one critical question that the RFI's investigators were unwilling to answer. They were prepared to answer questions that skirted this central issue, they also touched upon matters on the fringes of this issue and were happy to pontificate at great length about many things that seemed to be related, but in fact deflected attention elsewhere.

Perhaps the nearest we can get to a straight answer on this important point is contained within the Sheriff's comments in Para [41] of his final report:

The first question here is what changes would have had to have been made to the design and construction of the Trident to secure full compliance with the IMCO recommended criteria when she was built. No evidence was led at the inquiry, which would allow me to answer this question, so it is impossible to hold that, if she had been built so as to secure full compliance with these criteria, she would not have been lost.

But surely, Your Honour, as you were in charge of this £7m inquiry, you should have given directions that evidence be obtained and led on this matter?

You were eager to dismiss the results of the 1976 NMI model tests, the report from which, co-incidentally, showed that Trident would have survived if the IMCO Stability criteria had been met. In the words of Dr A. Morrall:

Experiments in breaking waves were repeated and no capsize was obtained. Test periods of up to 1 hour full scale were carried out. Motions were extremely severe and decks were very wet and an impression was gained that limiting conditions for survival had been reached.

Instead we have been asked to accept the conclusions that were drawn by a panel of experts, whose objectivity can be disputed, from a very limited and questionable set of test results from the MARIN test facility in Holland.

Question

Why was the Trident model NOT tested at the MARIN test facility in a condition representing full IMCO compliance so as to see whether or not she would capsize?

If tests had been carried out in this condition, then we would have had a straightforward and conclusive answer to the main question above.

This would not have been a difficult or expensive test to arrange, and it would have provided concrete evidence for the RFI. In fact, when a similar test was carried out at the NMI test facility in 1976 Dr Morrall commented: "this was achieved quite easily by rearranging the ballast inside the model and carrying out an inclining experiment to check"

Perhaps we already know the reasons why evidence was not sought or allowed on this point. The OAG, DfT, Seafish and a number of other parties just did not want to hear the answer that:

If Trident had met the IMCO minimum stability standard, she would have survived.

More to come…….

Saturday, February 26, 2011

FV Trident RFI - The development risks defence [*]


In earlier posts, concerning the Derbyshire and the Gaul disasters [http://mv-derbyshire.blogspot.com/2008/10/dry-run-for-litigation.html], we have highlighted the fact that formal investigations into maritime casualties are mainly driven, not by a desire to seek out the truth of the matter, but by the over-arching principle that any form of litigation ,which could be harmful to Government or the British Establishment, must be avoided at all costs.

We have now seen that, throughout the Trident RFI, this principle has remained the primary driver of events.

An example of this can be seen in Question 5, posed by the AG: 
5. At the commencement of her last voyage was the Trident unseaworthy (as determined by the standards which applied in 1974)…

This question enabled the Sheriff to give a ruling, which would support the ‘development risks defence’ argument, in any future product liability case, where compensation was sought.

His response, in paragraph [49], states:

What happened to the Trident on the day of her loss was not reasonably foreseeable to anyone in light of the knowledge and understanding of the design and construction of seagoing vessels available at the time.

While the clear intention of the Sheriff’s statement is to support any future ‘development risks defence’ argument, the statement in itself is clearly nonsense. In 1974, fishing vessel capsizes were an all too frequent occurrence and what happened to the Trident was, in fact, foreseeable; that is why, at that time in the UK, there was a requirement for fishing vessels to be designed and constructed to meet the IMCO minimum stability standard.

It is our belief that public inquiries should be about seeking the truth, not about providing cover for potential defendants.

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[*] http://www.jstor.org/pss/4507206

FV Trident - Design faults


The FV Trident had significant deficiencies in her stability reserves that remained unresolved from the time she was delivered in 1973 until she capsized in 1974. This factor has been glossed over in the Sheriff’s final RFI report published this week.

The Trident should have been designed and built to meet the requirements of the building specification and contract. This contract, amongst other things, stipulated that the Trident should satisfy the IMCO recommended minimum standard for intact stability (this criterion within the build contract had been included as a pre-condition to significant Governmental grant aid towards Trident’s building costs – an important issue at that time and part of an initiative to try and improve the fishing industry’s appalling safety record)

Unfortunately, upon completion of building, the Trident sailed from the builder's yard without undergoing an inclining experiment and the actual status of her stability reserves, vis-à-vis compliance with the IMCO minimum stability standard, remained a factor that was ignored until a detailed investigation into her actual stability reserves was carried out following her loss.

Subsequent stability calculations during 1975-8 and within the past decade have all indicated that Trident did not meet her contractual stability standard. The findings contained within the 2011 RFI report have now also confirmed that this was indeed the case:

A statement by the Sheriff Principal on this particular issue is contained in Para [46]:

I have already discussed the significance of the fact that, as designed and built, the Trident did not comply fully with the IMCO recommended criteria.

An indication of just how serious this stability shortfall was may be gleaned from the fact that significant structural modification work was required for her sister vessel, the Silver Lining, before she was finally able to meet the required standard and allowed to sail.

A further indicator of the magnitude of Trident’s stability shortfall, is also given by the Sheriff himself (perhaps inadvertently) in paragraph [41] of his report:

…I am advised by Mr Macwhirter (and Professor Macfarlane at one point in his evidence appeared to support this) that all that would have been required in the design of the Trident to secure full compliance with the IMCO recommended criteria would have been a modest increase in the depth of her hull amidships of the order of 0.3 to 0.4 metres reducing to zero at the bow and the stern

We would suggest that a 'modest' increase in the depth of the Trident’s steel hull of 0.3 to 0.4m (i.e. a 10% increase in her depth) would have resulted in a totally different ship being built. One that would have had significantly improved intact stability reserves, as well as ‘specific sea-keeping characteristics’ markedly different from that of the hull that capsized.

The Advocate General and a number of the parties in the current investigation have sought to cloud these issues by raising number of related questions and offering a multitude of views that cannot be supported by the overriding facts of her loss. The Sheriff has now confirmed that he was willing to go along with this charade.

Some examples:

The Advocate General, in questions 8(b)(i) and (ii) sought the Court’s views on whether the Trident possessed intact stability characteristics that were in 'substantial compliance' with those recommended for fishing vessels by the DTI and DOT (i.e. the IMCO standard). The Sheriff was happy to provide positive answers to these questions in paragraph [29] of his report.

Note: The building specification and contract called for compliance with IMCO requirements not just ‘substantial compliance’. If it takes lengthening the ship by 10 feet or increasing its depth by 1.5 feet in order to obtain full compliance, then the difference between the DOT’s understanding of ‘substantial compliance’ and full compliance is rather substantial in itself.

The Advocate General, in questions 8(d) sought the Court’s views on whether the loss of the Trident was 'caused or materially contributed to by any lack of statical stability'. As a result of the confusion and disinformation that was allowed to enter into the case, the Sheriff was able, in paragraph [31], to provide the following unsatisfactory reply:

I think the answer to this question is no

Whilst the post of Sheriff Principal is a very senior position within the Scottish legal system, we do not think that this confers the right to challenge the established principles of Naval Architecture, which are irrefutably based on Archimedes and Newton’s laws.

The failure of Trident to meet her design specification in respect of a mandatory  [*] stability standard, and the fact that this was unresolved until she capsized can be viewed as nothing less than a serious design fault - and one in our view that was a material factor in her loss.

More to come…

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[*] It was mandatory in the sense that Governmental grant monies should not have been advanced for this vessel until it had been verified that she met the required stability standard. The whole purpose of the conditional grant scheme was to improve the stability (safety) of UK fishing vessels.