Support for the families

ship moored in a harbour

Shin Kai Maru, the offshore support ship used to search for the wreck of MV Derbyshire in 1994

In June 1990 Tyne Tees Television took up the fight for the inquiry into the loss of MV Derbyshire, through the ‘Northern Eye’ programme, with a half hour long documentary about the sinking.

Throughout 1990 Eddie Loyden, a Liverpool MP, was very active in the House of Commons and continued to press for the inquiry to be re-opened.

A team from Brunel University then produced results of research they had conducted, which showed that the stresses near frame 65 were greater than previously thought.

On 14 December 1990 the Derbyshire Family Association (DFA) presented a petition to the House of Commons containing 47,000 signatures. The petition, which asked for the inquiry to be reopened, was later taken to No 10 Downing Street but the Government still could not be persuaded to look for the wreck of Derbyshire.

A book ‘A Ship too Far’ was published in 1992. It told the Derbyshire story up to that date and put more pressure on the government to reopen the inquiry

The ITF search for the Derbyshire

On 29 May 1994 the US firm Oceaneering Technology started looking for the Derbyshire, using the search vessel Shin Kai Maru. Their search was run and paid for by the International Transport Federation (ITF).

Had it not been for the persistence of the DFA, the seafarers unions and others, it is possible that the ITF would never have agreed to fund the search. It follows that, had the Derbyshire not been found, the reasons why this massive ship had been lost might never have been discovered.

smiling man on the deck of a ship

Mark Dickinson on board the Shin Kai Maru. As a member of the International Transport Workers' Federation Secretariat, Mark co-ordinated the search for Derbyshire in 1994. He participated in the search and wrote the ITF report

Derbyshire found!

The ITF search was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by a trade union organisation. Happily it turned our to be a resounding success and the Derbyshire was found in the search area after only 23 hours.

The ITF team together with Oceaneering Technologies, on board the off-shore support ship Shin Kai Maru, started the search in May 1994 in an area based on positions where oil had been seen upwelling in 1980. The sea is about 4200 metres (2 ½ miles) deep at this point.

The Ocean Explorer 6000, a towed side scan sonar vehicle, was deployed from the ship ‘flying’ at an altitude of 460 metres above the seabed and within hours targets were noted which could have been the wreck of a ship. To identify the wreckage, the remotely controlled deep ocean vehicle Magellan 725 ROV was then used.

Before leaving the site the ROV lowered a memorial plaque onto the wreckage and recovered a small amount of the iron ore cargo that could be seen glistening on the sea bed and on parts of the wreck.

News at last for the families

The families were told and after fourteen years they started to grieve again.

The UK Government now took action and, after a further study by Lord Donaldson, a second expedition was organised at a cost of £2 million, paid for by the UK and EU.