In the 1975 and 2009 official investigations into the loss of the Trident, officers of the White Fish Authority (later Seafish) gave testimony to the effect that they had employed a ‘hands off’ approach to the way they administered the conditions associated with the award of Government grants for the purchase of new fishing vessels.
Original formal investigation, Day 4 Page 50, Mr Sutherland Chief Surveyor for White Fish:
In both investigations the court spent considerable time in trying to lay down the idea that the lax policies that White fish had in place at the time that Trident was lost were quite normal and that no blame could be attached to the organisation for not insisting that the terms of their grant be met.
The Government was very eager to avoid the obvious conclusion that, had the White Fish Authority done their job correctly in matters pertaining to Trident’s stability, she would not have been allowed to put to sea until her stability shortfalls had been addressed – and she would not have capsized.
Surprisingly, at the time of the original inquiry, there was a White Fish publication in existence that precisely specified the White Fish stability requirements associated with the award of a government grant. Although this publication would have been highly significant in both official investigations, White Fish (and later Seafish) did not reveal its existence to the court.
The existence of the publication in question was a serious inconvenience for White Fish, as it proved that their very own ‘Rules for the construction of wooden fishing vessels’ did not countenance a ‘hands off’ approach - White Fish surveyors were, in fact, obliged to attend inclining tests and to approve the stability information for all grant-aided fishing vessels.
A copy of the section in these Rules that deals with stability, with key provisions ringed in red, is reproduced below: