The Derbyshire was a
double hull OBO;
but she had not traded in oil since October, 1979,
nearly a year before she foundered.
There is no evidence that her carriage of oil
had anything to do with her sinking.
She had done her 1st Special Survey docking in April, 1980 at Sasebo,
where some repairs in way of the pump room bulkhead, Frame 65, were made.
The ship, loaded with iron ore,
sank in Typhoon Orchid, about 350 miles SE of Japan.
The course she followed had been recommended by Ocean Routes,
a commercial ship routing service hired by the ship's charterers.
Orchid was not a particularly strong hurricane in terms of wind.
It appears the central pressure went no lower than 962 mb
with max winds of around 85 knots.
However, the storm did follow a long, looping track
which could be expected to generate very large, confused waves.
The Derbyshire was UK flag, with a mostly Liverpool based crew,
built in the UK classed by Lloyds Register (LR).
Initially the UK government refused to investigate,
saying "overwhelmed by weather" and nothing could be learned.
The UK government had a substantial stake in this case.
The yard, Swan Hunter, which built the ship had been privatized
and, in order to make the deal work,
the UK government idemnified the new yard owners against any claims
arising from the ships that the yard had built.
However, Peter Ridyard, a father of one of the crew,
was an experienced ship surveyor.
He didn't buy the story that a nearly new ship
(she was four years old, one year of which she had been laid up)
should be "overwhelmed"
by a not particularly strong typhoon.
Ridyard, being a member of the fraternity,
knew that this class of ship had a major structural defect.
The problem was that the longitudinal structure was
discontinuous at the pump room bulkhead, Frame 65.
This is an extremely dangerous practice
which is still allowed by Class Rules.
He knew these ships had a bad cracking problem in this area,
and figured this was the real reason that the Derbyshire sank.
In March 1982, a sister ship, the Tyne Bridge,
experienced severe cracking at frame 65
just forward of the accommodations.
The ship was in ballast the North Sea.
The Captain issued a mayday but was able to get to a shelter.
Still Ridyard's efforts went nowhere.
In March 1986, the UK DOT prodded by increasing publicity
issued a report saying again there was not enough evidence
to make any determination, and dropped it.
Their timing was very bad.
Eight months later another sistership, the Kowloon Bridge,
developed severe cracking at Frame 65.
She then managed to lose her rudder
and ended up aground on the south coast of Ireland.
She broke her back, the break occuring near Frame 65.
It was then learned that the ship has had
massive girders welded over the deck near Frame 65,
a fact that nobody (yard, Class or owner)
had seen fit to make public until then.
Between October of 1987 and March 1988,
the UK government held yet another investigation,
but came up with the same answer:
For the reasons stated in this report,
the Court finds that the Derbyshire was probably overwhelmed
by the forces of nature in Typhoon Orchid,
possibly after getting beam onto the wind and sea off Okinawa
in darkness of the night 9th/10th September 1980
with the loss of the 44 lives.
The evidence available does not support any firmer conclusions.
The relatives of the crew organized as the Derbyshire
Families Association (DFA) were outraged and went public big time.
They were able to enlist the support of Tyne Tees Television
and the ITF which paid for an underwater survey in 1994.
The UK government had argued
that a search for the Derbyshire would be fruitless.
It was not known exactly where she had sunk;
the water depth was over 4000 meters;
and technology to obtain clear photographic evidence did not exist.
The ITF effort had the good luck
to find the ship only 23 hours after starting the search
and took some very interesting pictures;
but deteriorating weather and limited money
curtailed the picture taking.
The UK now convened yet another investigation under Lord Donaldson.
Donaldson concluded that another underwater survey was required.
On this survey, finished in April 1997,
close to 136,000 photographs were taken.
The quality of some of the pictures was amazingly good.
To just about everybody's surprise,
the pictures did not support the cracking at Frame 65 theory.
Despite the fact that the ship had needed to make some repairs
to the Frame 65 structure in April, 1980,
the hull forward and aft of Frame 65
were fairly close together on the bottom,
which would have been extremely unlikely
if the ship had split at Frame 65 on or near the surface.
Even more tellingly,
the port and starboard slop tanks just aft of Frame 65 had imploded.
They must have been intact when the ship started her dive.
This could not have happened if there had been cracking
at Frame 65 prior to her sinking.
The cause had to be elsewhere.
The UK government took a stab at that good old stand-by, blame-the-crew.
The DOT concocted a scenario of flooding of the bow Bosuns Store
due to the crew's leaving the hatch open.
This was based on a
which showed the forward Bosuns Store hatch cover missing
and a line trailing from the store out of frame.
The government duly issued a report in March, 1998
known as the UK/EC Assessor's Report (see Entry above)
implying crew negligence was the cause of the loss.
The idea that three days before reaching port,
facing a major typhoon, the crew would pull a line
partially on deck and then just leave it there
with the hatch open was willful idiocy.
Crews don't pull mooring lines out 3 days before reaching
port even if they know the weather would be perfectly
calm for the entire period.
When they pull a line out,
they don't leave it half in and half out.
And even the most suicidal crew would not leave
the hatch cover open going into a typhoon.
A Chief Mate who had served on the Derbyshire
quickly stepped forward, and pointed out
that the practice on the ship (and many ships)
when storing the lines, was they would be lashed together
and the end of the last length of line
fastened to the underside of the hatch cover.
This made it easy to pull out all the lines when needed.
However, the hatch cover failed,
the line would pay out as the hatch cover
separated from the hatch.
showed the hatch had been blasted at the aft end
destroying the aft hatch coaming.
This was clearly the most likely cause of the hatch cover failing.
In any event, flooding of the 700 m3 Bosuns Store by itself
would not have sunk the ship.
It would only have reduced the forward freeboard by 0.39 m.
In the Faulkner reference listed above,
Faulkner argues that the loss was due to the collapse
of the forwardmost hatch cover.
Under Class Rules, the hatch covers are designed
to take a pressure of only 1.75 meters of water on top of them.
Faulkner found that the Derbyshire's hatch covers met this rule.
He calculated they would fail at a head of about 4 meters.
However, Faulkner's analysis also indicated
that, in the conditions that the ship encountered,
there was a high probability
of the ship's hitting a wave large enough to collapse
the ship's forward hatch covers,
and quickly flood the forwardmost hold.
After that the ship was doomed.
He recommended that the strength of the hatch covers
be increased by a factor of 3,
which would not have required very much steel.
It is quite possible that bow flooding
could have contributed
to the collapse of the hatch cover.
There could have been nil, and the ship encountered
a large enough wave.
There could have been a lot,
in which case the wave required to collapse the
hatch cover could have been a bit smaller.
Either way the hatch cover was not strong enough.
Faulkner's analysis also showed that the ship
could easily have encountered a wave train
that would have exceeded her IACS required
bending moment by 80%.
In theory, Class Rules are based on
designing to a wave that the ship
will encounter on average once in every twenty years.
But Faulkner and others have shown
that the way Class determines this wave is flawed,
and even this very questionable criteria is not met.
One of the more minor problems
with our Class Rules designed ships
is that they have so many things wrong with them,
that it is often impossible to figure out
which is most responsible in a given casualty.
The Derbyshire families had good reason to suspect
cracking at Frame 65.
The hatch covers are far too weak.
The hull longitudinal strength is at best marginal.
The lack of a raised forecastle is indefensible.
Faulkner's results meant not just the Derbyshire was doomed,
but other vessels as well.
In fact, between January 1990 and February 1998,
eight very large ships loaded with iron ore simply disappeared.
One of those ships was the Pasithea.
There was a video on youtube
taken from the bridge of the Pasithea.
She is loaded.
Like the Derbyshire and almost all post-70 built
bulk carriers, she has no raised forecastle.
The weather is not bad, but a big swell is running.
Crew are walking around on deck, but only on the aft portion.
The ship is regularly submerging her bow
and water is washing over the deck
as far aft as the kingposts.
Sadly, the video is no longer available.
The Pasithea sank off Japan almost exactly ten years
after the Derbyshire and under very similar cirumstances.
The entire crew, 25 Greeks and 7 Filipinos, were killed.
But this time there was no real investigation.
Despite the fact that the Derbyshire
showed that we have the technology to not only find
wrecks in the deep ocean, but also take insightful pictures,
CTX knows of only three attempts to underwater survey
a wreck since the Derbyshire,
and none nearly as extensive.
Faulkner's arguments did not find favor with officialdom.
The UK government was torn between placating the
Derbyshire Families and their public support,
and defending Swan Hunter.
Faulkner was forced off the UK/EC investigation
prior to the publication of the Assessors' Report.
Glenda Jackson, a minister at DOT (which by then
had been given the much more trendy name
of Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions)
Professor Faulkner's active promotion of the theory
that the Derbyshire sank when her hatch covers gave way
is a matter of dismay for the Department.
Officials have written to Professor Faulkner
to convey the Department's displeasure
in his untimely interventions.
In response he has offered his resignation as Assessor.
If this is the response of the UK regulators,
what can we expect from flag states such as Panama?
The Assessors' report generated yet another outburst
of public outrage and the UK government
was forced to re-open the case.
This resulted in the publication of yet another report
known at the RFI (Re-opened Formal Investigation) report
in April of 2000.
CTX has not seen this report
but apparently it exonerated the crew,
accepted the Cardone/Marin argument
that the flooding forward was crucial,
and made some weak recommendations
for strengthening bulk carriers.
CTX has not had a chance to examine the Cardone/Marin
analyses that indicate that a 1.5m change in draft forward
changes everything as far as the hatch covers are concerned,
flipping the probability of hatch cover failure
from near zero to over 75%;
but this simply doesn't make sense.
Freeboard is important; but not that important.
And if it is true,
it is a compelling argument for more freeboard
which apparently Justice Coleman inconsistently ignored.
IMO responded to the Derbyshire
by passing some badly flawed rules
for improving forepeak pumping arrangements
which will do nothing when a cargo hatch cover fails.
IACS has responded to the Derbyshire
with a modest strengthening of the hatch cover rules,
far less than Faulkner's analysis calls for.
Neither required more freeboard nor a raised forecastle.
The suggestion to either retrofit stronger hatch covers
or increase the minimum freeboard of existing bulk carriers
has been ignored.
There has been no real change in the longitudinal strength rules.
See the Christopher sinking for an example of the results
of this relaxed attitude.
Bulk carrier losses are distressingly common.
The only thing unusual about the Derbyshire
was (a) the crew's relatives were able to get this casualty
into the public eye and actually investigated,
and (b) one of the investigators
proved to be too honest to toe the official line.
If the industry's normal regulatory apparatus had had its way,
as it certainly would have if the crew had been say Greek/Filipino,
the whole thing would have stopped
with the first finding of "over-whelmed by weather".
This casualty produced a bunker oil spill.
The Japanese SAR aircraft found oil bubbling
to the surface near the Derbyshire's last known position.
It was this information that allowed the first under-water
survey to find the wreck so quickly.
CTX as yet has no info on the bunkers on-board.
The guess at 2000 tons is based on a normal reserve
plus enough fuel to get to Singapore
which is the closest location of cheap bunkers.
We need the actual figure.