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Sail Training Vessel Marques (Loss)

Volume 115: debated on Friday 1 May 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether he has received the report of the investigation into the loss of the Marques; and whether he will make a statement.

I have now received the report of the formal investigation into the loss of the sail training vessel Marques in the Atlantic in June 1984 with a loss of 19 lives, and I have placed a copy in the Library.The report concludes that the cause of the loss of the Marques was an unexpected and violent squall which resulted in the severe heeling, flooding and sinking of the ship. The report finds that it was not the fault of any person or persons that the Marques had insufficient stability to resist the squall, but comments that, if judged by the knowledge and experience now available, the stability of the Marques would be found to have been inadequate and the vessel unseaworthy for operation as a sail training ship in non-coastal waters.The report finds that the Marques was in a proper state of repair, and that so far as the structure of the vessel was concerned she was in a safe and seaworthy condition. It also finds that, with certain reservations, she was properly manned and sailed.The report's main recommendation is that criteria should be developed for assessing safe standards of stability for sail training ships. As the report notes, the Department of Transport has already commissioned technical studies with this in view. This work will be taken forward as rapidly as possible, in conjunction with the organisations responsible for sail training, with a view to the publication of a merchant shipping notice on standards of stability for sailing ships. These criteria will in future be applied in considering applications for load line certificates or load line exemption certificates in respect of sail training ships. The report also contains a number of other recommendations concerned with the operation of ships of this kind and with the conduct of races involving sail training ships. These recommendations will all be followed up in consultation with the organisations involved.The report contains a number of criticisms, including criticism of the Department of Transport's decision to issue a load line exemption certificate for the vessel when stability data were not available, and concludes that without such stability information the ship was unseaworthy: however, it finds that the failure to provide this information did not cause the loss of the vessel. The Department notes this finding, which relates to a difficult judgment which was required to be taken about a vessel with a long record of safe operation worldwide in all weather conditions. Load line exemption certificates will not in future be issued in the absence of stability data.