The sinking of MV Derbyshire

Online feature and display

This online feature was originally created to accompany a display marking the 25th anniversary of the sinking of the MV Derbyshire in 2005. 

In 2012 a new display - MV Derbyshire - Search for the Truth| - opened at Merseyside Maritime Museum.

large container ship at sea

MV Liverpool Bridge, before she was renamed MV Derbyshire. Copyright HMSO, reproduced with kind permission

MV Derbyshire is the biggest British registered merchant ship ever to have been lost at sea.

Built in 1976, she was an oil/bulk/ore (OBO) carrier. A Liverpool registered ship, she was owned by the local firm Bibby Line. On her final voyage more than a third of the crew were from Liverpool.

She was lost in September 1980 in the South China Seas during typhoon Orchid, en route from Canada to Japan. All 44 people onboard died, including 42 crew members and 2 of their wives.

In the 1980s about 17 bulk carriers were lost each year. The loss of Derbyshire was extraordinary because:

  • she was only 4 years old
  • she was manned by an experienced master and crew
  • she was built by a British shipyard
  • she was classed A1 by Lloyds Register, the top classification for merchant ships.

Incredibly it was 20 years before the reasons for the sinking were discovered. This is the story of how the families of the lost crew fought to discover the truth.

The Derbyshire campaign records of Captain David Ramwell, author of 'A Ship Too Far: the Mystery of the Derbyshire', are available at the Maritime Archives and Library|, reference D/DFA(A).

This online feature was created to mark the 25th anniversary of the sinking in 2005. Please note that the accompanying display in the museum which opened to mark the anniversary in 2005 is no longer on display in the museum itself. However, a new display MV Derbyshire - Search for the Truth| opened in 2012.

Images and text provided courtesy of the Derbyshire Family Association.