Friday, August 23, 2013

Weighty Matters

During the past 40 years, the Department for Transport (DfT) has gained a wealth of experience in the art of data manipulation and disinformation when conducting official investigations into fishing vessel casualties, especially those in which dubious stability was thought to be a factor in their loss. This expertise is currently being used quite blatantly by the DfT (via MAIB) to both cover their own backs and safeguard the interests of their many business ‘clients’.

Generally, the DfT only feels threatened when it has made a mistake - when there is something it did not do, that it should have done or it did something that it should not have done - and lives were subsequently lost at sea.

In the case of the FV Gaul, the DfT approved her stability (see copy of the stability certificate below), for unlimited operation at sea, just 14 month’s before the trawler capsized and sank (in February 1974), with the loss of 36 lives.

Following the loss of the Gaul, the official investigation, led by the DfT, was quick to put on record that the Gaul had met the IMCO minimum stability standards for deep-sea trawlers “with a substantial margin”. 

In our posts of 1 January 2010 [LINK] and 8 February 2010 [LINK] we were able to point out that this official statement was, in fact, incorrect and we gave details of the Gaul’s ‘arrival in Port’ and preceding sailing conditions where the IMCO minimum stability standards were not and could not be met. 

In our post of 4 August 2010 [LINK] we also described how the stability records for the calculated lightship and sailing conditions of the Trident, which capsized and sank in 1974, with the loss of 7 lives, were callously modified by the Trident RFI experts (hired and paid for by the DfT) to give credence to the “official” view that, at the time of her loss, the Trident substantially met the IMCO stability standards of the day – an official requirement for grant-aided fishing vessel purchases in the early 1970s. 

We also noted in our posts of 28th February [LINK] and 27th April 2011 [LINK] that considerable sums of money had been squandered on worthless model tests, which were deliberately fed with doctored data, to give the results that our officials desired [1]

This blatant deception was only attempted because, contrary to official policies, the Trident’s lightship particulars (and stability reserves) had not been accurately established and verified [2] at the time that she was built. 


The Gaul’s lightship particulars (and stability reserves) were also left unverified when she was built [3], the data used being merely a copy of those derived from the inclining experiment, held in February 1972, on the Ranger Calliope (subsequently re-named Arab).

Testimony by Mr M. Scott (DfT surveyor) - 1974 Formal investigation into the loss of the Gaul - Day 12 page 27 : 

Surprisingly, if you check out the lightweight figures in the footnote below [4] you can see that an additional 11 tons of solid ballast has somehow managed to make its way into the calculations of the DfT, the shipyard and the Owner’s Consultants. When their investigations into Gaul’s stability were put in hand for the 1974 inquiry, it became an integral, unspecified part of the Gaul’s lightship weight. 

This 11 tons of notional ballast was useful in subsequent calculations in that it lowered the Gaul’s vertical centre of gravity (by 180 mm) - and would therefore be readily adopted by those who did not wish the tag of ‘deficient stability’ to be linked to the Gaul’s loss. Nonetheless, at the original FI hearings, the Builders, Brooke Marine, the Owner’s consultants, Y-ard and the DfT all managed to imply that solid ballast was not necessary on the Gaul to meet the IMCO minimum stability requirements (see below):

Mr M. Scott (DfT) - transcripts day 12 page 45 

Mr G. Donaldson (Brooke Marine) transcripts day 9 page 67
Mr A. Gilfillan (Y-ard) transcripts day 11 page 43 – in proposing improvements for Gaul’s 3 remaining sister vessels: 

This notional ballast was also an integral but invisible part of the Gaul’s lightship weight during the subsequent lengthy and expensive testing carried out by Morral in the late 1970s at the National Maritime Institute. This was another instance in which taxpayer’s money was spent on extensive model testing, but in which the basic data was skewed, to give the results that our officials desired. 

If we exclude this 11 tons of phantom ballast (it was not present on the Gaul) from the Gaul’s lightship and then check out her reserves of stability, we can see that this was degraded to the point where she did not meet the IMCO minimum stability criteria on arrival at distant fishing grounds. Furthermore, if she then did not proceed to promptly fill her fish hold with a significant catch of fish, she would be unable to meet the IMCO minimum stability standard throughout the rest of her voyage!


[1] In 2005 the DfT also deliberately destroyed a number of folders of evidence and video that was unfavourable to their desired outcome.

[2] Neither an inclining experiment nor lightship check was carried out on the Trident. 

[3] The Gaul’s lightship data (displacement & vertical and longitudinal centres of gravity) were not obtained from a unique inclining experiment; they were copied instead from an inclining experiment held on the Ranger Calliope (a sister to the Gaul) on 1 February 1972; however, a simple lightweight check, to verify the integrity of the copied data, was not carried out on the Gaul. 

[4] Lightship data obtained from the inclining test on the Ranger Calliope
Displacement = 1099.63 tons, 
Vertical centre of gravity = 20.2 ft above base 
Longitudinal centre of gravity = 9.46 ft aft Midships 
Gaul Lightship data - used for all official stability investigations: 
Displacement = 1110.6 tons, 
Vertical centre of gravity = 20.02 ft above base 
Longitudinal centre of gravity = 9.99 ft aft Midships

1 comment:

AJT said...

Gadfly, regarding data manipulation and disinformation at play during the Trident RFI.During her final submissions Ailsa Wilson QC - for the office of the Advocate General said "there was no reliable evidence the loss was caused by deficiencies in design stability".What a sweeping damaging statement to make! I find it hard to believe that this womans role in the RFI was to be totally unbiased and to assist the sheriff in finding the truth.If justice is done this woman needs to be held accountable for her part in misleading a court.In the meantime and while we wait for our turn in the European court its my opinion that contrary to QC wilsons views there was plenty very reliable evidence to show that Tridents loss was caused by huge deficiencies in design stability.It is my belief that once heard in Strasbourg the RFI into Tridents demise will be exposed for being both blatantly crooked and cruelly unfair.
Best regards