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)
--------------------------------------------------------------- 
[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?