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".


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. 

* 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.