Fresh inquiry sought on ship's sinking

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT yesterday faced a renewed demand for a fresh inquiry into the sinking of the largest British ship lost at sea, the MV Derbyshire.

The call came in a report on the discovery of the wreck of the bulk carrier, which sank in a typhoon off Japan in 1980 with the loss of its British crew of 44.

The weather was blamed but many experts suspected structural defects in the 169,000-tonne vessel.

Relatives of the crew believe the Derbyshire broke up on the surface and sank because of design faults said to have been found in her five sister ships - a claim rejected by the ship's builders, Swan Hunter, and owners, Bibby Line.

The report on the Derbyshire's discovery by a trade union-sponsored survey ship in June said the distribution of wreckage across 1.3 km of sea-bed about 2.8 miles down ruled out any break-up on impact with the bottom.

The International Transport Workers Federation study said the presence of hundreds of relatively small pieces of wreckage suggested 'an extremely violent break-up that must have occurred over a very short period of time, perhaps only seconds or minutes'.

Video film of the wreck showed seven large pieces of twisted metal, including the bow, scattered on the ocean floor. The report said the theory that the Derbyshire suffered massive structural failure was supported by analysis at the University of Wales of the video evidence of the bow section.

The Government bowed to pressure for a public inquiry after one of the Derbyshire's sister ships, the Kowloon Bridge, broke in two after running aground in Ireland in 1986. But the inquiry's finding that the Derbyshire 'was probably overwhelmed by the forces of nature' failed to end concern.

Between 1975 and 1990, an average of 17 bulk carriers sank each year.