30th anniversary of the loss of MV Derbyshire

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photo of a huge container ship at sea

MV Derbyshire. Copyright HMSO, reproduced with kind permission

The sinking of the container ship MV Derbyshire was a terrible tragedy and a mystery that took many years to resolve. Ellie Moffat, curator of maritime collections, explains;

"Today marks the 30th anniversary of the sinking of MV Derbyshire, the largest British registered merchant ship ever to be lost at sea. On 9 September 1980 she was nearing the end of her voyage from Canada to Japan when she was caught up in typhoon Orchid in the South China Seas and sank. All hands (42 crew members and two of their wives) were lost.

The tragedy was a shock to many as the ship, owned by Liverpool shipping company Bibby Line, was only four years old and her crew was very experienced. She had also been given top classification by Lloyds Register.

The initial investigation suggested that extreme weather was the sole cause but the families of the crew were sure there were structural faults to blame. The Derbyshire Family Association fought for 20 years before they got the answers they were looking for and were relieved when the crew were cleared of any blame. Since then there has been a move to improve ship safety as a result of what happened to MV Derbyshire.

If you’d like to find out more read our online feature about the sinking of MV Derbyshire and the subsequent investigations."