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Old 18th February 2007, 09:35
David Byrne David Byrne is offline  
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Derbyshire Hatch Covers

I gave evidence at the Re-opened Formal Enquiry into the loss of the DERBYSHIRE, in particular as to the likely cause(s) of her loss.

After the initial enquiry which to most observers was inadequate, the families campaigned long and hard to get it re-opened. They were/are remarkable people.

After a great deal of a careful analysis of miles of underwate video evidence and a long hearing, the enquiry found as follows:

1. It was not a structural failure of the main hull - the relevant section was found on the seabed and very closely studied with various underwater videos. It had nor suffered from the kind of cacking that had been much talked about.

2. It most definitely was not the focsle hatch that failed or was left open. This was agin proven in the Enquiry. (Although the old-fashioned design was criticised).

3. The primary cause of failure was the inadequate strength of the No1 and No2 cargo hatch covers to withstand the loads coming from very large amounts of water on deck in typhoon conditions. No 1 collapsed and No 2 followed suit very soon after. I found and analysed every piece of the nine sets of hatch covers and No 1 was clearly punched in whereas all of the others imploded as she sank. The existing international law (Safety of Life at Sea) is inadequate as far as foward end hatch covers are concerned, and has been since at least 1966.

4. Damage to the foocsle vents could have led to water ingress to the forward spaces, making hatch cover collapse even more likely, by pulling the forward draft down (a bit).

Once the No 1 hatch failed the ship would have sunk by the bow in about 2 minutes in about 4000m of water. The time was about midnight.

As a result, hatch covers have been made stronger by Classification Societies (even though the International Law is still inadequate); focsles are preferred to no focsles; fore deck hatches are given special attention; forward vents are now stronger.

The Enquiry found that the crew and the owners had no fault. All involved had huge sympathy for the crew and their families (who were actually heros). The end result, after over 20 years waiting, was a big improvement to ship safety - not much of a monument to those on the DERBYSHIRE, but justice in the end.

David Byrne
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