Saturday, May 29, 2010

FV Trident Inquiry - the matter of the elusive document

Unexpected and most confounding press reports have recently announced that the families of the Trident victims have gained access to a document, which so far appears to have eluded them. The document in question, dating back to 1976, reveals that experts from the former National Maritime Institute, after carrying out research at the behest of the Department of Transport, had assessed that the Trident had inadequate stability.

Confronted with the uproar generated by this belated discovery, the Advocate General was quick to state that the document had not been hidden, that it “has been publicly available since it was published in 1976, and was available for anyone to see at the time”, and was even mentioned by the individual counsel during the recent court hearings.
For some reason, the Advocate General seems to confuse the RINA technical paper “Capsizing of Small Trawlers” by A. Morrall, that was published later, in 1979, for the 1976 NMI report for the DOT, to which the families are actually referring.
In fact, it was only the 1979 paper that has been mentioned by the counsel during the proceedings because, as a spokeswoman for the inquiry tried to justify, it had a “better status”.
Well, indeed, the 1979 RINA paper did have a ‘better status’: although originating from the 1976 research, the later publication was a more sanitized version of the document in question, therefore more suitable for public consumption, less definite in its pronouncements and one which does not even tie the 1976 research to the loss of Trident [*], simply referring to trawlers A and B instead.

Anyway, last week, we sent an email to the Advocate General asking her to name that contentious document publicly and to make it available to the public.

Dear Madam,

Following the latest news in the press regarding the emergence yesterday of "an unpublished government report which concluded that the vessel’s design made it so unstable that it could have capsized in “waves of modest height”", which the inquiry maintains "has been publicly available since it was published in 1976", I would be much obliged if you could arrange for a copy or a link to the aforesaid document to be sent to us.

Many thanks for your kind assistance,

Yours sincerely,

So far, we have received no response from the AG office, but we hope that one will be coming soon.
[*] This is rather unusual since one of Mr Morrall’s later productions for RINA: “The GAUL Disaster: An Investigation into the loss of a Large Stern Trawler” as the title implies, had no qualms in mentioning the name of the casualty that was being researched.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

FV Trident Stability - model testing

In a few days time  - more precisely on the 24th of May 2010 - the re-opened formal investigation into the sinking of FV Trident is due to reconvene.
In anticipation of that day we have read through the transcripts of evidence available so far.
In 2002 when the then Secretary of State for Transport, Mr Stephen Byers, ordered the re-opening of the Trident inquiry, we were advised that new and important evidence had been discovered that justified a new investigation into the vessel's loss.

However, after ploughing through more than 7000 pages of recorded oral evidence (from the 40 days of hearings in the Aberdeen Court), we have not been able to locate any new and important evidence!
We were also surprised to learn that, despite the technical expertise that is available to the court, the Advocate General found it necessary to seek external advice on one of the simplest concepts in Naval Architecture concerning ship stability.

AG - "It is true that raising KG is generally detrimental and lowering KG favourable and this applies to all vessels" - Do you agree with this statement Dr Schmitter? [...]
Dr S - Yes in general terms this statement is correct
AG - Right.
(Transcript of evidence of 12 November 2009)

For the benefit of those with an interest in trawler stability, we have prepared a short video clip (see below, split in two parts), which explains the significance of KG (VCG) to transverse stability. [1] [2]


[1] KG is the height of the vertical center of gravity above the keel (also known as VCG)

[2] Unfortunately, on the Trident the VCG position was not accurately known because an inclining experiment had not been carried out.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Change against change

It is now clear that, very soon, we shall have a change of government. Whether this will bring a deeper change of culture or merely a change of air, we are, however, unable to tell.

So far, New Labour has been more than a government party: it has been absolutist state, subversive society and religion and, as such, it has managed to annex almost everything in our public and private lives to its politics - 1997, the year when New Labour came to power, marking the ‘year zero’ in Britain’s calendar and the beginning of history. 
During the thirteen years of New Labour rule, the evils of authoritarianism and corruption were followed by the more insidious evil of normalising this state of affairs, which, more or less unaware, many of us have assimilated like a bad taste acquired through prolonged exposure to vulgarity.

It is for these reasons that genuine change will be difficult to make happen. The next government will not be able to improve very much or reverse all the ruinous changes performed by New Labour, without initially mirroring the outreaches of the previous regime and similarly expanding its remit to non-political areas, beyond those legitimately held by an elected political power. The risks contained in any such expansion of authority imply an increased demand for openness and good sense from our next government. In the present circumstances, in which we have to correct not as much the doctrines as the excesses of the New Labour regime, the ideology of the next governing party will matter a lot less than their ability to serve us well - imperative which, sadly, is not going to broaden, but to complicate our electoral choices on the polling day.