The mysterious loss of the Derbyshire In September 1980, the biggest single shipping casualty in British maritime history, claimed the lives of 44 seafarers and ultimately became the focus of growing uncertainty about the structural design and safety of the world's bulk carrier tonnage. A 1987 UK formal inquiry into the casualty declared that the vessel "was probably overcome by the forces of nature in typhoon Orchid". In view of conflicting evidence of cracking in some of Derbyshire sister ships, and in an effort to produce new and important information about the cause of the sinking, an international trade union of seafaring workers hired Oceaneering Technologies (OTECH) to search for and locate the Derbyshire using their OCEAN EXPLORER 6000 deep ocean sidescan sonar system Predicted by some experts to be an impossible task, OTECH quickly located the wreck in the Philippine Sea some 40 miles away from her last known position at a depth of approximately 4,210 meters. Detailed sidescan sonar imagery, along with confirming video footage captured by OTECH's MAGELLAN 725 remotely operated vehicle(ROV), showed that the hull apparently fractured in a predicted area of weakness (frame 65) and ultimately shattered into thousands of pieces. This evidence indicates an extremely violent break-up that must have occurred over a very short period of time. This evidence is being used in requests to the UK Government for further investigation into the Derbyshire's loss.
When the 169.000dwt combination carrier Derbyshire (originally the Liverpool Bridge) sank on September 10th 1980, some 230 miles off the coast of Okinawa(Figure 1). no one would have predicted beforehand that this great ship, the largest of her type in the world at the time, could have ever suffered the sudden and violently tragic ending that now appears to have befallen her. Despite that her loss came as she was being overtaken by a typhoon that may have subjected her to maximum winds of 85 knots and seas of sixty feet or more, Derbyshire was an immense vessel - 965 feet long and 145 feet wide (Figure2) - being operated by an experienced Captain and crew and was capable of withstanding the most appalling weather. Moreover, the Derbyshire, which had been launched In 1976 as the last in the class of SIX sister OBO (Ore/Bulk/Oil) ships built by the well-regarded British shipbuilders Swan Hunter, had only been in service for less than 3 years of her very short 4 year life. (Figure 1 is available in full paper) The earliest indication that Derbyshire's death was extremely sudden was the puzzling absence of a mayday call or any sort of distress signal. By September l3th, 4 days after their last radio communication the owners - Bibby Bros and Co - were sufficiently concerned by the absence of contact to request a search by the Japanese Maritime Safety Agency (MSA) MSA regulations on missing ships dictated that the search could not begin until September 15th. 24 hours after the Derbyshire was expected to arrive in Kawasaki.