Tuesday, 6 December 2011

More ordinary abuses

A few weeks ago we read reports that Her Majesty the Queen had signed the amendment “to ensure that the UK’s justice system can no longer be abused for political reasons” and Israeli politicians do no longer stand the risk of being welcome with an arrest warrant when visiting Britain.

Fair enough, but we cannot help wonder why Her Majesty cannot also ensure that the UK's justice system is no longer abused (and not only abused, but made a mockery of) for party political reasons by Her Majesty’s government, when the abuses do not affect foreign dignitaries, but her Majesty’s more ordinary subjects. The sovereign is deemed, after all, to be the fount of justice, in whose name justice is delivered by the British courts.

Her Majesty has known (even better than us) about these abuses for at least four years and knows very well what the families of the sea tragedies' victims and we have gone through all this time - about the continual harassment, intimidation and the systematic destruction of our lives. Yet, for as many years, we've been left to fend ourselves against revenge-seeking criminals. It is true that the Royal Family have shown us their support from time to time, and we are deeply grateful for their encouragement, especially during the hostile Labour regime, and for the hope that when the Tories returned to power our troubles would end. [*] 

However, so far, no amendment has been signed or word has been delivered in our favour, and things for all concerned have gone from bad to worse. (We understand that, at the same time, the phone hacking saga and other associated political pressures have caused Her Majesty’s government a lot of discomfiture and that, therefore, promises cannot be honoured on time.) Yet, we would very much like to know why such outrageous abuses can get ignored for so long.

Of course, our Head of State is now very old; so, perhaps in asking such questions now there’s hardly any point - if there’s ever been one.

UPDATE: I have been offered wonderful career prospects in Scotland to shut up.

[*] We did not quite understand what the US administration had to do with the cover-up of all this wrongdoing, but we can easily venture a guess.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The oncoming Court case - expected farce

Whistleblowing court case - MV Derbyshire will be mentioned - more to come

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The 1966 Load Line Convention and the loss of the MV Derbyshire [*]


Many of you will have seen the Load Line markings on the sides of seagoing ships, some may even have wondered what they are for. The markings are also commonly known as the Plimsoll mark in honour of the British politician who, in the 1870s, was responsible for the UK legislation which curbed the loss of life caused by the foundering of over-laden ships and from ‘coffin ships’ (over-insured ships that were worth more to their owners when sunk than when afloat).
In the image above, the circle with the horizontal line drawn through its centre shows the deepest draft to which a ship may be safely loaded in seawater at summer temperatures (i.e. do not fill past this mark!) while the TF, F, T, S, W, WNA load lines to the right of the circular mark show how deep the ship may be loaded when it is sailing in waters with differing temperatures and densities (Tropical Fresh, Fresh and the seawater load lines for Tropical, Summer, Winter and Winter North Atlantic). A ship is prohibited from taking cargo onboard that would cause the relevant Load Line mark to be submerged i.e. it would then be illegally overloaded.
The load line mark fixes the maximum allowable draft and thus how much cargo (deadweight) any particular ship may carry (oil, iron ore, bananas, grain, cars, chemicals etc. etc.) and it may be said that the price of just about everything we come across in our daily lives is thus affected to some greater or lesser extent by the positioning of these small marks on the sides of a ship.
The location of these marks is governed by the rules of an International IMO (UN) Convention with their placement determined for each particular ship by means of a standardised, detailed calculation which takes into account the ship’s type, size, proportions, buoyancy, strength, stability etc. The vertical distance of the Load line mark from the upper deck is known as the freeboard and in general terms the greater the freeboard, the safer the ship will be. However the downside to having a large freeboard is that the ship’s ability to carry payload is reduced.
The first International Load Line Convention was held in 1930 and the second was held in 1966. As far as the MV Derbyshire is concerned, it is the regulations of the 1966 Load Line Convention that are of interest.

1966 Load Line Convention

By the mid 1960s, the world’s leading maritime nations, freight companies, ship owners, insurers and Classification Societies had become aware of the fact that the 1930 Load Line Convention’s regulations were out of date and that due to advances in ship design, construction standards and technology it would have been possible for the more modern ships, that were then joining the fleet, to load to a deeper draft and thus be able to carry more cargo. In particular the fact that welding had superseded riveting in ship’s hulls and that steel hatch covers had overtaken wooden hatch boards and canvas covers now meant that the world’s fleet was being replenished with new vessels that were stronger and more seaworthy than those envisaged at the time of the 1930 convention.
In 1966, the UK then had the largest merchant fleet in the world and thus a rewrite of the Load Line Convention was something that the UK Government was obliged to take a keen interest in. UK ship-owners were obviously very concerned with their vessels’ payloads; hence the positioning of the Load Line marks on the sides of their ships was of crucial importance to their business, the costs of transporting goods and to the profitability of international trade.
Bearing this in mind, it is easy to appreciate the UK Government’s position at the start of the 1966 Load line Conference (page 149 in the Derbyshire RFI report advises us that):
The UK’s material objectives were to seek deeper loading (reduced freeboard) for tankers and dry cargo ships with steel hatch covers.
While most nations had similar objectives, the principle debate at the International Conference was on the accompanying technical measures, safeguards and standards that would need to be imposed to allow the additional cargo to be carried safely at sea. The outcome that most delegates sought from the Convention were affordable, efficient ships which would be able to carry more cargo, without a reduction in the safety levels that were being achieved prior to 1966 Convention.
An important part of the debate on safety concerned the minimum technical standards that would be required for steel hatch covers. Commenting on this event, the Derbyshire RFI report (page 151) suggests to us that the UK’s delegation fought valiantly for stronger hatch covers on vessels of Derbyshire’s type, against overwhelming international opposition, but that unfortunately they failed in their quest.
The Ministry of Transport and the UK delegation did all that reasonably could be done to obtain agreement to enhanced hatch cover strength. The failure to persuade a majority of the 52 national delegations to accept these proposals has to be seen against the background …etc.
However, this information from within the RFI report gives a somewhat false impression on the actual course of events at the 1966 Conference. At that time, the UK’s primary objective was to obtain deeper loading for bulk carriers and tankers, while their proposal for enhanced hatch cover strength was only of secondary importance - merely a ‘safety’ concession which would give a degree of credibility to their argument for deeper loading. (In fact it was not even a concession on the UK’s part, as existing national legislation already contained enhanced strength requirements for hatch covers on UK ore carriers that were sailing with ‘tanker freeboards’ see Fig. 2. below).
The 1966 Load Line Conference concluded on 5 April 1966 and Statutory Instrument number 1053, The Merchant Shipping (Load Lines) Regulations, brought the regulations of the Load Line Convention into force in the UK on 21 July 1968. The explanatory text at the end of this UK instrument gives a brief summary of the changes brought about by the new regulations:
...The principal change is that new ships as defined in section 32(4) of the 1967 [Load Line] Act are required to comply with more stringent constructional requirements (conditions of assignment) specified in Schedule 4. This qualifies them for reduced freeboards under Schedule 5, thus enabling them to be more deeply loaded than heretofore.
The MV Derbyshire Re-opened Formal Investigation (RFI) and the Load Line Rules (see pages 145-161 in the Derbyshire RFI report)

The final report from the Derbyshire RFI does not mention the commercial interests that were at play during the 1966 Conference and focuses instead on elements of the technical debate between the experts from the world’s maritime nations. As mentioned previously, in this limited scenario (and with hindsight), the UK Government has managed to cast itself in a heroic role, fighting a laudable battle for increased safety standards on seagoing ships and only failing to achieve their goals when faced with overwhelming odds.
While the text in the Derbyshire final report may make pleasant reading for our Government officials it does not correspond with the facts of the case, as the official records from the 1966 Load Line Conference show:

The contents of the above document show that the UK delegation wished to attain drafts for seagoing ships that were significantly deeper than those previously granted to ore carriers i.e. they were seeking freeboard reductions and drafts for ore carriers that went far beyond those allowed for ‘tankers’ under the 1930 Convention (the UK’s proposals for reduced freeboards are indicated in red, in the sketch on the following pages (Fig 3.) - allowable ‘tanker freeboards’ are also indicated in the same sketch by the dotted line – ‘1930 Tanker’).
It is important to note that the UK’s proposal for stronger hatch covers at the 1966 Conference was directly linked and secondary to their proposals for reduced freeboards. When the majority of delegates at the Conference did not accept the UK’s proposals for reduced freeboards (deeper loading), the UK delegation lost much of their interest in hatch covers and did not press on with their case for an enhanced standard of strength.
The Derbyshire RFI final report [**], however, manages to give the false impression that the UK’s objective was merely to seek ‘tanker freeboards’ for ore carriers, facilitated by stronger hatch-covers when, in fact, the UK was seeking a far greater reduction in freeboards than had been the practice in the years prior to the 1966 Conference.
Fig 2. The UK’s standard practice for allowing reduced freeboards on ore carriers, prior to the 1966 Load Line Convention, is outlined in the Board of Trade minute below:

Fig. 3 The graph shows the minimum freeboards allowed by the 1930 Load Line Convention for Steamers and Tankers, together with the UK’s proposed curve of freeboards for bulk carriers as presented by delegates at the 1966 Load Line Conference. The final agreed curve of freeboards (B-60 - as defined in the regulations of the 1966 Load Line Convention), which applied to the Derbyshire, is also shown.

On page 17 of the Derbyshire RFI final report, Justice Colman states that the UK Government cannot be criticised for failing to secure an agreement to its proposals for increased hatch cover strength. We’re not quite sure that we agree with him on that point: the UK government could certainly have been criticised for not implementing the Convention’s provisions for hatch cover strength in their entirety and also for interpreting the Convention’s minimum requirements for hatch cover strength incorrectly:
  1. Regulation 27(7)(c) of the 1966 International Load Line Convention was partially omitted from the text of the UK’s 1968 Load Line Regulations (the part that is underlined below). This regulation was very important in that it stipulated minimum standards for hatch cover strength when reduced freeboards were allowed (as in the Derbyshire’s case)  
27(7)(c)… provided that the Administration is satisfied that:

(c) the covers in positions 1 and 2 comply with the  provisions of regulation 16 and have adequate strength…”
This omission meant that there was no statutory requirement for the hatch covers on UK bulk carriers, with reduced freeboards, to have adequate strength; the UK regulations merely stated that the hatch covers should comply with the strength requirements of regulation 16. In regulation 27(7)(c), the Convention clearly stipulates that it is the responsibility of individual Administrations (e.g. the UK Government) to satisfy themselves that, on ships with reduced freeboards, the hatch cover strength is adequate.
  1. Regulation 16 of the Load Line Convention, which lays down minimum hatch cover strength requirements, was also applied improperly by the UK in that the authorities allowed an erroneous formulation for hatch beam section modulus to be used to determine hatch cover strength - one which would consistently underestimate hatch cover stress levels by about 10% (the error could lead to deficient hatch covers being installed on UK ships and, as discussed previously [LINK] the hatch covers installed on the Derbyshire were deficient in strength because of this error - see Appendix 1).
  1. The UK’s Load Line regulations, which entered force in 1968, contained a lower strength requirement for bulk carrier hatch covers than that contained in the regulations they superseded (the UK’s requirements for hatch cover strength were reduced by about 15% when the 1968 regulations came into force - see Appendix 1.)
To summarise:

  • In 1966 the UK’s merchant fleet was the largest in the world and the UK Government of the day (Harold Wilson’s Labour government) looked upon the 1966 Load Line Convention as a commercial opportunity that would enable deeper drafts to be assigned to cargo vessels in the UK fleet.
  • At the time of the 1966 Load Line Conference, the UK delegation proposed a significant reduction in freeboards (~ deeper drafts), which did not gain the support of other maritime nations and the resulting regulations for freeboards were far more modest in scope (for a vessel like the Derbyshire the difference between the freeboards initially proposed by the UK and the freeboards that were included in the 1966 Load Line Convention would amount to about 5000 tonnes in lost cargo capacity).
  • A provision for enhanced hatch cover strength was also included within the UK’s proposals for reduced freeboards, however, when their proposal on freeboards did not find support, their case for increased hatch cover strength was dropped.
  • The 1966 Load Line Convention’s final regulations contained a minimum strength standard for hatch covers, together with a provision whereby this minimum strength could be increased on vessels that were assigned reduced freeboards. The UK did not implement this provision.
  • If the UK Government had been seriously concerned about hatch cover strength standards on bulk carriers with reduced freeboards, then they could have taken action to impose higher standards on UK ships – the regulations of the 1966 Load Line Convention actually encouraged such a practice but left the detail of such standards to the discretion of individual nation states. On page 153 of the Derbyshire final report, Justice Colman accepts that the UK Government could have applied more stringent hatch cover strength standards than those laid down in the Convention, but then justifies the authorities’ subsequent inaction with the dubious notion that, had more stringent standards been adopted by the UK, then this would have resulted in “serious damage to the British national interest as a leading merchant marine flag state”.
(Though it is difficult to accept that a few extra tonnes of steel on the hatch covers of a large, new, bulk carrier would have led to the collapse of the UK merchant fleet!)
  • The main conclusion that emerged from the Derbyshire public inquiry was that the 1966 Load Line Convention regulations for hatch cover strength were seriously deficient and that it was this factor, together with severe weather, that led to her loss.
  • We would suggest that, if the regulations of the International Load Line Convention had been implemented in full and also interpreted correctly by the relevant UK authorities, it is possible that the Derbyshire would have survived the perils of Typhoon Orchid.

Appendix 1

[*] Report of the Re-opened Formal Investigation (RFI) into the loss of the MV Derbyshire (page 211) - official questions and answers :

“16.7  In so far as material to the loss of the “DERBYSHIRE” was the design of the hatch covers of the “DERBYSHIRE” in accordance with the standards applicable at the time she was built?

-   Yes.

  16.8   Is that design satisfactory in the light of what is now known?

-    No: seriously deficient.”

[**] RFI report Para. 10.21  “The stronger hatch covers proposed by the UK were put forward in response to application to bulk carriers of the tanker freeboard

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The emerging pattern

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, 1 September 2009

Unfinished Business

One of the main reasons for carrying out a Formal Investigation into a shipping disaster is to determine its causes so that safety lessons can be learned and action taken to prevent similar tragedies re-occurring. Following the Gaul and Derbyshire inquiries we have found out, however, that this is not really the case: the protection of the financial interests of a few political and corporate operators have primacy over all other considerations, including safety.
In the run up to the 2004 Gaul and 2000 Derbyshire formal investigations, and subsequently, a lot of public money was spent and a lot of work was carried out in order to determine the causes of these two maritime disasters and to propose new measures that would improve safety. The causes for the tragedies were well obscured and, as for the safety measures recommended during those two inquiries, when it came to the final stage - the implementation or concrete action stage – matters, somehow, fizzled out.
Trawler Gaul lost in 1974 with all 36 crew
It is doubtful whether the four safety recommendations that came out of the Gaul 2004 Re-opened Formal Investigation (RFI) will ever come into effect. They had not been implemented in January 2007 when we first raised this matter [link] and they have not been implemented since.
The fact that the four safety recommendations, put forward by Justice Steel (the Wreck Commissioner in the Gaul RFI), are based upon false premises, are inappropriate and will therefore not be effective in preventing future loss of life, may be one of the reasons why the Government prefers them to be shelved and quietly forgotten.
OBO MV Derbyshire lost in 1980 with all 44 persons onboard
The Formal Investigation into the loss of the MV Derbyshire concluded in 2000 and its final report was published on 8 November of that year. The principal finding and recommendation to come out from the Derbyshire RFI was that the regulations for hatch cover strength were seriously deficient and that the International Convention on Load Lines (1966) needed to be amended urgently to rectify this shortfall.
The regulations of the Load Line Convention were thus redrafted at IMO to include requirements for specially strengthened hatch covers to be fitted to the forward cargo holds of all new cargo ships (not only bulk carriers). The new amendments were finalised at IMO [*] in 2002 and came into force Internationally in 2005.
However, they did not legally come into force for UK flagged vessels at the same time because the UK’s own Merchant Shipping legislation had not been amended to give legal force to the new Load Line Convention requirements for hatch covers. Today, the legislation still has not been revised.
The relevant UK rules are contained in Statutory Instrument (SI) 1998 No. 2241: The Merchant Shipping (Load Line) Regulations 1998.
There is no reason why these rules could not have been amended in a timely manner; in fact, the UK Load Line regulations were recently modified by Statutory Instrument (SI) 2005 No. 2114, so as to implement the following changes:
“……… in the definition of "pleasure vessel" or "pleasure craft", as the case may be, for each reference to "husband or wife" substitute "spouse or civil partner".
Now, that was extremely important - and also revealing of our government’s legislative priorities as regards Maritime safety.
[*] International Maritime Organisation

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Non-compliance with the Standards

A critical look at the design of the Derbyshire’s hatch covers and at the Court’s view that the hatch covers complied with the ‘standards applicable at the time she was built


In 2000, the Re-opened Formal Investigation (RFI) into the loss of the Derbyshire concluded that that the Tees built bulk carrier had been lost, during typhoon Orchid, as a result of significant hold flooding following the structural failure of the vessel’s main cargo hold hatch covers due to heavy seas.
The Court also concluded that although the vessel’s main cargo-hold hatch covers had been designed to meet the international strength standards applicable at the time she was built, those strength standards were severely deficient, and it was this regulatory deficiency that was crucial to the vessel’s loss.

Extracts from sections 7 and 16 in the final report of the RFI:

"7.16 At the time of the DERBYSHIRE’s last voyage her
hatch covers complied with the minimum strength requirements of ILLC 66 and of the Lloyd’s Register of Shipping Rules.


16.7 In so far as material to the loss of the “DERBYSHIRE” was the design of the hatch covers of the “DERBYSHIRE” in accordance with the standards applicable at the time she was built?

- Yes.

16.8 Is that design satisfactory in the light of what is now known?

- No: seriously deficient. The design strength was inadequate to withstand the green water loads likely to be sustained during extreme sea conditions, which a vessel might encounter during her service life."

The outcome of the RFI was, thus, able to deflect any suspicion of blame away from the vessel’s builders and the Classification Society, both of whom could have been subjected to hostile litigation, had the design or construction of the hatch covers been found to fall short of the required norms.
However, independent calculations show that the court’s conclusion, that the Derbyshire complied with the standards applicable at the time she was built, is not wholly correct. The results of these calculations are summarised in the pages that follow below.

Hatch Covers - applicable standards

The minimum strength standard [1] that the Derbyshire’s hatch covers was required to meet was laid down within the 1966 International Load Line Convention, additionally this minimum strength standard was incorporated within the construction rules and regulations of the organisation (Lloyd’s Register) that assigned the Derbyshire with its +100 A1 Classification and its International Load Line certificate.

Strength Calculations

It is unfortunate that the Derbyshire was not constructed to meet the version of Lloyd’s Rules that was in force prior to the introduction of their 1968 Rule amendments, as that earlier version (first introduced in 1963 and valid until 1967) contained more stringent requirements for ore carrying deep draught vessels such as the Derbyshire.

What is more unfortunate, however, is that, as our calculations show, she didn’t comply with the standards that were introduced later (i.e. at the time of her build). This latter non-compliance was not acknowledged during the course of the 2000 RFI, and whether or not the Derbyshire would have survived, had her hatch covers met the relevant standards, remains, therefore, debatable.

Extracts from Lloyd’s Rules 1967
Ships specially
designed for carrying ore
Para 6020 (page 254)

“Hatch Covers

Steel hatch covers are to be in accordance with D 2326 and the
scantlings determined from the formulae given in table 43 note 6. When a draught in excess of the cargo ship draught is desired, the section modulus and moment of inertia of the stiffeners and thickness of the plating are to be increased by 15 per cent.”

In 1968, Lloyd’s rule requirements for hatch cover strength were reduced by 15% to bring them into line with the requirements of the 1966 Load Line Convention.

In the following pages the strength of the Derbyshire’s number one cargo-hold hatch covers has been evaluated and compared to the minimum strength required by both the Load Line convention and Lloyds Rules. The minimum strength requirements that were given within the Load Line Convention and Lloyd’s Rules were the ‘standards applicable at the time she was built’. No other standard is relevant.

The summarised results from the strength calculations that are given below include values obtained from classical manual calculation methods (simple beam theory), empirical methods (to give section modulus required by Lloyd’s rules) as well as finite element modelling and analysis.

The results from each of the above methods show that the Derbyshire’s No. 1 hatch covers did not meet the minimum strength ‘standards applicable at the time she was built’.

Derbyshire no.1 hatch cover construction (mild steel)

The Derbyshire’s number 1 cargo hold hatch opening was protected by two hatch covers arranged Port and Starboard of the vessel’s centreline which slid outboard to open and inboard to close. When closed, each hatch cover was supported on three of its sides by the upper deck hatch coaming structure. The fourth side of the port hatch cover mated with the fourth side of starboard hatch cover at the vessel’s centerline. There was no structural support for the fourth side of the hatch covers at the vessel’s centreline other than at their fore and aft ends where they sat upon the hatch coamings.

Each hatch cover panel was arranged with steel top plating and four side plates around its perimeter. Longitudinal and transverse stiffening members were provided on the underside, i.e. ten main, fore and aft longitudinal stiffeners and three main transversal girders (side, centre, side); these stiffening members were ‘simply supported’ at their ends by the four hatch cover side plates.

Main fore and aft hatch cover stiffeners – strength and stress calculation


1. Stress calculation using simple beam theory:

The stresses within the hatch stiffener can be calculated from the section properties that are detailed above in conjunction with the loading that is given within the Load Line Convention:
The fore and aft stiffeners are simply supported at their ends by the hatch coamings:

(1) For mild steel, maximum allowable stress = 4100/4.25 = 965 kg/cm2
Hatch cover fore and aft stiffener spacing = 0.994 m
Total pressure load on one stiffener = W = 14.72 x 0.994 x 1.75 = 25.605 tonnes
Approximate self weight of one stiffener = Section Area of 1 stiffener x L x density:
Self weight of stiffener = (0.994 x 0.011 + (0.61 + 0.46)/2) x 0.0105 + 0.28 x 0.025) x 14.72 x 7.8 = 0.351 x 7.86 = 2.725 tonnes

From simple bending theory: the maximum bending moment in the stiffener is at its mid point = WL/8
M = (25.605 + 2.725) x 14.72/8 = 52.1272 tonne metres

Simple bending theory:
M/I = σ/Y = E/R => stress = σ = bending moment/section modulus

Maximum bending stress = 52.1272 x 105/4799.43 = 1086.11 kg/cm2 (this exceeds the maximum allowable stress in (1) above)

Load Line Convention requirements:

The minimum required Section Modulus (I/Y) to give stresses below 965 kg/cm2 can be easily determined:

From simple bending theory (M/I = σ/Y) => M/σ = I/Y = 5212720/965 = 5402 cm3

Summary of strength standards:

The table below provides a summary of the strength standards that were current during the period in which the Derbyshire was designed and built. The shortfall in the required strength of the hatch cover stiffeners is also indicated.

* It would appear that the Lloyd’s Register formulation for minimum section modulus does not include an element for the stiffener’s self-weight. This implies that their rules at that time would consistently give strength requirements that would fall below that set to meet the stress criteria of the 1966 Load Line Convention. The strength required to support the stiffener’s own self weight is significant (on the Derbyshire each stiffener weighed approximately 2.5 tonnes and was 14.7m long); neglecting this factor would mean an approximate 10% shortfall in required strength when the Lloyds formulation was used.

Although the percentages shown in the above table do not appear to be dramatic, it should be noted that these are shortfalls on a strength standard that is meant to provide a statutory minimum. There is no reason, other than cost savings, why designers should not exceed this statutory minimum by a comfortable margin.
The above concludes the summary of the traditional ‘rule - based’ approach to determining hatch cover strength requirements.

2. Strength and stress analysis of the Derbyshire’s hatch covers using the finite element method

It should be noted that the hatch covers on the Derbyshire were not solely provided with fore and aft ‘I’ section stiffening members (as discussed and examined previously) in addition three deep transverse girders were provided, arranged as indicated in the sketch on page 3. Effectively, this arrangement of longitudinal stiffeners and transverse girders formed what is known as a ‘grillage’ in structural analysis terminology.

The effect that these three additional girders would have on the actual strength of the hatch covers is debatable. There are two main possibilities: the girders would either increase the strength of the covers, if arranged effectively, or diminish the strength of the hatch covers, if not arranged effectively.
The Class Society’s rules in the 60’s and early 70’s did not specifically provide for grillage type hatch cover arrangements, and did not give detailed strength requirements for hatch covers that were arranged in this way. Manual calculations to determine realistic strength and stress levels in a grillage are quite complex.

The contemporary method for performing strength and stress analysis on two and three-dimensional structures is by means of finite element modelling.The Load Line Convention’s parameters are quite useful in this respect, as they lay down the loads that have to be applied together with the maximum allowable stress levels,. They neither specify how the hatch covers should be arranged nor give strength values for the hatch cover’s structural elements.
We have constructed two finite element models of the Derbyshire’s hatch cover structure:

i) Three stiffener model
This first model was used to determine the stress levels in a single longitudinal stiffener (for comparison with the results previously obtained from the traditional approach). Note that three stiffeners were included in the model to eliminate boundary effects. The transverse girders, although included, were not effective in this model

ii) The port side hatch cover model
One whole hatch cover was modelled to determine the stress levels in the stiffeners, girders, side and top plating. The stiffeners, girders, side plates and cover top plating were effective in this model.

The results from the finite element analysis are best appreciated visually, the following comments are a brief summary of what the two analyses revealed:

Three-stiffener model: this model, which was typical for the 10 fore and aft main stiffening members of the Derbyshire’s hatch covers, revealed maximum stress levels of about 1000 kg/cm2 in the main longitudinal stiffener flange. These stresses correspond with those obtained from traditional beam and bending theory, and, again, they exceed (by about 5%) the allowable stress parameters that are laid down within the Load Line Convention. ">

Undeformed stiffener model viewed from underside

Undeformed stiffener model viewed from above

Deformed model with seawater loading at 1.75 Tonnes/m2 (plus self weight) - Viewed from above

Deformed model with seawater loading at 1.75 Tonnes/m2 (plus self weight) - Viewed from the underside

Port side hatch cover model:
this model revealed that the three main transverse girders were effective in reducing stresses in the longitudinal stiffeners to satisfactory levels. However, the girders themselves, together with the inboard hatch cover side plate to which they were attached, were not strong enough to take the additional loads that had been shed from the 10 longitudinal stiffeners. Stress maxima in the region of 1300 kg/cm2 were developed in the two transverse side girders, stress maxima in the region of 1400 kg/cm2 were developed in the single transverse girder, and stress maxima in the region of 1350 kg/cm2 were developed in the main inboard hatch cover side plate.

Undeformed hatch cover model viewed from above

Undeformed hatch cover model viewed from underside

Hatch cover - original and deformed structure

Hatch cover - original and deformed structure

Hatch cover - deformed structure - views

Hatch cover - deformed structure - view from above

Hatch cover - deformed structure - view of the underside


The stress levels in the transverse girders and longitudinal inboard side plate, as revealed by the FE analysis, significantly exceed the allowable stress levels that are given within the 1966 Load Line Convention. It is notable, that the stress levels in some areas are more than 40% above the statutory maxima. Elevated stress levels indicate that the hatch cover’s factor of safety against catastrophic collapse may have been significantly reduced. And a failure in the longitudinal inboard side plate could lead to a domino-like collapse of the remaining hatch structure.

On the basis of the calculations summarised above, it is clear that the strength of the Derbyshire’s hatch covers did not comply with the standards that were applicable at the time she was constructed, and that, therefore, the RFI statement to the contrary was incorrect.


[1] Re: Strength

i) The required ‘strength’ standard within the 1966 Load Line Convention was the minimum strength that, when the hatch covers were loaded at a rate of 1.75 tonnes/m2, would produce stresses below the ultimate breaking strength of mild steel divided by 4.25 (a notional factor of safety of 4.25).

ii) The required strength standard that was contained within Lloyd’s Register’s construction rules was expressed as ‘minimum required section modulus’ - the rule requirements allowed the maximum stress values, that were permitted by the Load Line Convention, to be governed by a single parameter which could be calculated for each girder in each hatch cover ie if the main hatch girders had a section modulus that exceeded xxxx cm3 then the maximum stress levels within that girder would not exceed the values permitted by the load Line Convention when the cover was loaded at 1.75 tonnes/m2.

Friday, 14 November 2008


Following on from our post of 26 October, below, we would now like to advise the Department for Transport has replied to our FOI request, and they even did so within the period prescribed by the law.
Unfortunately, we did not find out much from that reply. As discreet as a confession box, the DfT officials would not divulge the identities of the participants in the Derbyshire presentation, arguing that this was "personal information".
The Department would not answer our question about the materials that were to be presented at the November 4th meeting either. We, therefore, had to insist (See our reply on the same site mentioned above)
The DfT, however, let us know that the Rt Hon John Prescott MP, although invited, was not going to attend the event.
Sometimes, of course, it is better to make yourself scarce.

Monday, 3 November 2008

MV Derbyshire - theories and factual evidence

In addition to our earlier posts published on this site, we would like to provide further comments and clarifications on the outcome of the Derbyshire RFI, and put forward a different possible scenario for the loss of the vessel. (Please see the attached DOCUMENT)
The 2000 inquiry maintained that heavy weather damage to a number of ventilators and air-pipes at the fore end of the vessel had allowed seawater to enter the hull’s forward spaces and cause the vessel to trim by the bow. It also concluded that this forward trim would have enabled heavy seas to break on and over the number 1 cargo hold hatch covers and subject them to significant loading. This ‘green sea’ loading was deemed to have exceeded the collapse strength of these covers causing them to fail, and leading to the flooding of number 1 cargo hold and hence even more trim. The process was said to have repeated on the number 2 and then the number 3 cargo hold hatch covers, and so on until the vessel sank.

The RFI loss scenario thus considered that the forward trim of the vessel (brought about by flooding of the stores spaces, chain lockers and forepeak) was the initiating factor in a chain events leading to the final loss.

Whilst the evidence indicating that the Derbyshire’s hatch covers had failed due to seawater loading is conclusive, the court was unable to demonstrate in a satisfactory manner that the vessel’s slight forward trim was indeed the causative factor of that failure.

Having noted the limitations of the MARIN model tests used by the RFI, we argue, on the contrary, that the forward trim that was taken into account would not necessarily have been sufficient in itself to bring about the tragedy.

The loss of forward freeboard due to flooding and trim, about 1.3m only (excluding flooding of the Fuel Oil Deep tank), was not of a magnitude that could significantly alter the ‘ballpark’ hatch cover loads expected to arise from the large waves and ship motions generated by typhoon Orchid. The hatch covers in this trimmed condition would still be about 8.9m above the sea surface and only about 630 mm below their normal position, with the ship in an undamaged but fully laden condition.

Therefore, the small trim by the bow could not realistically and satisfactorily explain the cycle of floodings and the resulting sinking that were suggested by the inquiry. Yet, under the label of unknown and unforeseen causes for the loss of the vessel, the RFI piled together and discarded many other possible alternatives.

Out of this class of unforeseen causes, we have now decided to present one alternative theory in which the spare propeller carried onboard the vessel, due to its position and location on the upper deck as well as due to its securing arrangements, becomes detached from its deck supports and wreaks damage to adjacent weathertight structures.

The damage to these structures, it is argued, would lead to flooding, the failure of the hatch covers, flooding and ultimately to the loss of the vessel.

Quite understandably, this alternative scenario, again, opens up discussions about liability and compensation, and this was something, which the RFI tried very hard to avoid.

(More details, explanations, diagrams and supporting evidence are contained in the attached DOCUMENT)

Sunday, 26 October 2008

The MV Derbyshire Presentation

In early November this year, the Department for Transport will be acting as host for a presentation on the 2000 MV Derbyshire RFI. It is going to be a modest affair - which is not being publicised - to be held behind closed doors, for the benefit of the Derbyshire families only. The guest of honour, it is touted, will be none other than the MP for Hull East, Mr John Prescott. (As the Minister responsible for the DETR, he was obliged to sanction the 2000 Derbyshire RFI – an inevitable decision, given the unsatisfactory nature of the original Formal Investigation and the new evidence obtained from the underwater surveys.)
The prospect intrigued us and stirred our curiosity to such a degree that we felt compelled to find out more about the event and to try to make sure that no more taxpayers’ money on securing Mr Prescott’s ‘legacy’ will be spent, and that no further loss of official repute or deliberate bamboozling of the Derbyshire victims’ families will happen.
Therefore, we have lodged a FOI request with the Department for Transport in order to get more details on this matter. The request can be seen at the following web address:
The DfT kindly promised us a reply by the end of October.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Dry run for litigation

By way of preamble to the comments that will follow later on this site, we are now providing a brief explanation of what, in our view, appear to have been the interests, motivations and legal objectives behind the outcome of the Derbyshire Formal Investigation.
As we have mentioned earlier on our Trawler Gaul blog, the search for the truth in many formal investigations held in the UK has often been hindered by the adversarial aspects of these inquiries – aspects which render them not as much as investigative processes, but as cases of ‘shadow litigation’.
In a similar manner, the outcome of the Derbyshire RFI appears also to have been affected by the unequal leverage exerted by the most powerful of the forces competing in that formal investigation: i.e. the British government and the maritime establishment, i.e. the parties that would have stood to lose out from any results likely to lead to litigation.
Rather than simply establish the causes of the tragedy, the final report of the Derbyshire RFI sought, also, to exonerate the shipbuilders from any potential liabilities.
Thus, the RFI concluded that the design deficiencies that had led to the loss of the Derbyshire had not been due to negligence on the part of the shipbuilders, but to the unfortunate inadequacies in the international maritime legislation in force at the time of her build.
As the final report shows (see Annex 2 of the attached document) the court addressed a number of limited and leading questions, which appear to have been tailored in a way that would have allowed British Shipbuilders (i.e. the Government) to make use of one of the defenses provided under products liability legislation – i.e. the ‘development risks defense’ – to counter charges of negligence and claims for compensation, should these have later arisen.
This 'development risks defense' states:
the state of scientific and technical knowledge at the time [the producer] supplied the product was not such that a producer of products of the same description as the product in question might be expected to have discovered the defect if it had existed in his products while they were under his control.”
Furthermore, the court’s final conclusions that the vessel’s deck fittings (mushroom ventilators, airpipes and windlass seating) were wholly in accordance with standards applicable at the time the Derbyshire was built - standards which today are no longer acceptable – was not, in fact, proven. On the contrary, photographic evidence from the wreck site indicates that these fittings were not wholly in accordance with the standards that applied at the time of build.
For a fuller and clearer explanation, please see the document published at THIS LINK.
(More to come)
The document mention above can also be found at the following links:

Sunday, 12 October 2008

MV Derbyshire tragedy

The MV Derbyshire, a 91,655 gross tons bulk-carrier was was built in 1976 by Swan Hunter Shipyard, Teesside, for the shipping company Bibby Line. The vessel was registered at Liverpool and classified by LRS.
On 9 September 1980, during Typhoon Orchid, MV Derbyshire dissapeared off the south coast of Japan, with all hands on board (42 crew and two wives). She was, and remains, the largest UK ship ever to have been lost at sea.
The Report of the Formal Investigation (FI) held in 1987 first concluded that the loss of the MV Derbyshire had been due to a force majeure event, the vessel having probably been "overcome by the forces of nature in typhoon Orchid".

The wreck was eventually found in June 1994, during a search launched by the International Transport Workers' Federation and led by the American shipwreck hunter David Mearns. The search team were also able to deploy a ROV to survey the wreck and collect photographic evidence from the site.

Later on, using evidence from the underwater survey, the Investigation assessors purported - on the basis of a rope seen emerging from the Bosun’s store hatch opening and of an examination of the disposition of that hatch’s toggles - that the loss of MV Derbyshire had been caused by the negligence of the crew, who had allegedly failed to secure the hatch lid, which lead to fore end flooding and structural failure.

The discovery of the wreck prompted the British Government to re-open the Formal Investigation into the sinking of the vessel - investigation which began in April 2000. This time, the investigation reached the conclusion that the ship had sunk because of fore end flooding and structural failure, and as a result of inadequacies in the legislation in force at the time of build, and that the rope emerging from the Bosun’s store hatch opening was nothing more than post-casualty debris, thus absolving the crew of any responsibility for the tragedy.

The Investigation found that damage to the forward vents, hatches and equipment on the upper deck initiated the unfortunate sequence of events that led to the vessel's loss. Flooding of the vessel’s forward spaces through these damaged vents and hatches gave the vessel a trim by the bow, thereafter the main cargo hold hatch covers were subjected to seawater loading and collapsed – flooding number 1 hold first, then number 2 hold, then number 3, and so on until the vessel sank.

Several important questions, however, have remained unanswered:

1. The mushroom vents on the MV Derbyshire obviously failed. Were they therefore adequate?

2. The vessel had been issued with a Load Line certificate. But did the vents comply with the requirements of the Load Line Convention?

3. Did the construction and workmanship of these vents conform to the shipyard's or appropriate British standards?

4. Did the fillet welding on the windlass seat have adequate throat thickness and, was the workmanship satisfactory?

In due course, these questions and several others will finally be addressed.