Remembering MV Derbyshire

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Curator of Maritime Collections, Ellie Moffat, remembers a maritime disaster with Liverpool links.

Smiling people standing in front of a museum exhibit.

Ellie Moffat (fourth from left) with members of the Derbyshire Family Association.

Last Friday morning we opened a new display about bulk carrier MV Derbyshire, the largest British registered merchant ship ever to be lost at sea. We were pleased to be joined by members of the Derbyshire Family Association, the Lord Mayor of Liverpool Councillor Sharon Sullivan and Maria Eagle MP.

Sunday 9th September marked the 32nd anniversary of the sinking and so it is a timely reminder of this immense ship that was lost in the South China Sea during typhoon Orchid, on 9 September 1980.
She was nearing the end of her voyage from Canada to Japan, carrying 157,446 tons of iron ore. All 42 crewmen and two of their wives perished, including 17 from Liverpool.

Owned by Liverpool’s Bibby Line, the loss came as a complete shock to everyone due to her vast size, and that she was only four years old with a very experienced crew on board.

Our new display tells the story of the ship and her tragic loss, but also the story of the families of the crew – who in turn formed the Derbyshire Family Association (DFA) - who campaigned for a formal investigation to be held. The DFA were instrumental in uncovering the truth of what happened and why; they were tireless in their efforts and were finally rewarded 20 years later when they accepted the conclusions of the re-opened formal investigation in 2000.

It is an important story with strong Merseyside connections, and we are grateful to them for all their support. They have kindly donated some objects to the museum, including a memorial plaque and a bell that was presented to the DFA by NUMAST (now Nautilus).

Also on display is the Bibby Line uniform of 3rd engineer officer Leo Coltman, which has been a precious reminder for his family over the years, and the last letter sent by Seaman 1 Ronnie Musa to his wife.

We would like to thank Bibby Line Group Ltd for lending us a ship model of MV English Bridge (later known as Kowloon Bridge), a sister ship of MV Derbyshire.

The story of MV Derbyshire must never be forgotten.

Find out more about MV Derbyshire on our main site.