On 16 October 2014, the RSS Merseyside local group hosted Professor Jonathan Tawn from Lancaster University. There were 16 people in attendance, including RSS members (44%) and guest representation from employers such as the Cheshire and Mersey Clinical Networks, Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, United Utilities, and the Health and Safety Executive.
The talk described Jonathan’s involvement as an expert witness in 2000 in the UK High Court’s £11 million investigation of the sinking of the UK’s largest ship lost at sea, the M.V. Derbyshire – a particularly relevant talk to be held at RSS Merseyside since the ship was registered in Liverpool and owned by a Liverpool based company, Bibby Line. M.V. Derbyshire sunk in 1989 on a journey from Canada to Japan having been exposed to Typhoon Orchid. Jonathan described how his research on extreme value methods proved critical in determining that, beyond reasonable doubt, the direct cause of the ship’s loss was inadequate strength of her cargo hatch covers to withstand the forces of the typhoon.
Not only did Jonathan give a fascinating account of his experience as witness for such a high-profile case – including the high-pressured two week timeframe he was set to compile his evidence, briefing a solicitor on the technicalities of his probabilistic estimates, and his experience in the witness box – it also proved to be an excellent example of an IMPACT case study for Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014. Jonathan explained that as a direct result of the High Court’s conclusions and subsequent associated work he undertook, new worldwide design standards were set for ocean-going carriers.