LETTER: SEA EMPRESS DISASTER: WHO WAS TO BLAME? WHAT LESSONS CAN BE LEARNT?

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The Independent Online
From Dr Crosbie Smith

Sir: One of the most disturbing features of the Sea Empress salvage debacle is why, after each of the first two refloatings, the laden and largely intact vessel was not towed immediately into the shelter of the Haven and alongside the Esso Jetty.

Instead, the public were told that the vessel was having her ballast tanks filled with sea water and held in the approaches pending the arrival of the Star Bergen for lightening. It is not merely the benefit of hindsight that makes such an ill-fated strategy seem foolish.

Any inquiry must therefore probe any conflicts of interest among Coastguard, Marine Pollution Control Unit, Port Authority and salvors. Most experienced seafarers would choose to head for maximum shelter from wind and tide with minimum delay. Why did this not happen in this instance?

Yours faithfully,

Crosbie Smith

Reader in History of Science

History of Science Centre

University of Kent at Canterbury

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