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This  Chronology has been produced by the Attorney General to assist the Formal Investigation. The Chronology details the events relevant to the Formal Investigation which occurred between 1973 and 20 August 1989.

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      ANNEX C Chronology (182.58KB.pdf)      Starting 20th August 1989


Sinking in the River Thames on 20th August 1989


Served on behalf of the Attorney General


1                This is Revision 2 of the Chronology served on behalf of the Attorney General.  Changes from Revision 1 are underlined.

2                Revision 2 includes references to the relevant pages in the chronological bundles (prefix CHR).  The chronological bundles will contain the documents to which reference is made in this chronology.

3                The reference to SCS’s draft standing orders which was previously included as “approximately July 1989” has been removed having regard to the reference on the 2nd page of the document to the talkback system which is believed to have been fitted after the collision.

4                The chronology covers events up to the time of the collision.  The search and rescue chronology will cover the search and rescue operation.

5                References in the chronology to stability and subdivision are included for the sake of completeness and by way of historical background.

6                Verbatim extracts from relevant documents are included in this chronology.  Such extracts may not be complete and are included solely for ease of reference.  “[  ]” denotes that a word or phrase is illegible. 

7                References to “Dept” are to the Government Department with responsibility for shipping matters at any particular time, namely the Board of Trade (which became the Department of Trade and Industry) and the Department of Transport (which became the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions).

8                Where entries in the chronology do not refer to a named vessel, they are to be taken as referring to MARCHIONESS unless the context indicates otherwise.

 9                All vessel names in the chronology are given in upper case.

 10            Document reference numbers in the chronology are to the ‘Concordance’ number appearing on the face of the document as circulated to all parties during the discovery process. Where a document has been included in the chronology bundle, the page reference for that bundle is also given (prefixed by CHR).

 11            The following abbreviations are used in the chronology in connection with Dept and Port of London Authority personnel:

 AHM (MS)           Assistant Harbour Master (Marine Safety)

CNS              Chief Nautical Surveyor

CSS              Chief Ship Surveyor

DCS              Deputy Chief Surveyor

DCSS            Deputy Chief Ship Surveyor

DSG              Deputy Surveyor General

ESC              Engineer Surveyor-in-Chief

MD                Marine Directorate

MO               Marine Office

MSO             Marine Survey Office

PLA              Port of London Authority

PNS              Principal Nautical Surveyor

PO                Principal Officer

SES              Senior Engineer Surveyor

SNS              Senior Nautical Surveyor

SSS              Senior Ship Surveyor   

12            The roles of the various classes of Dept surveyor and the structure of the Dept are addressed in the statements obtained by the Attorney General from former Dept surveyors.

13            A summary chronology of events is set out below.

 Summary Chronology


MARCHIONESS built with enclosed lower saloon, otherwise open deck


Letter from Chief Inspector Turner re passenger vessels and public safety


Hughes minute re need for all round visibility on passenger vessels


Meeting at DOT Marine Office with passenger vessel operators


Issue of Merchant Shipping Notice No 685 re all round visibility


British Dredging standing orders issued


South Coast Shipping standing orders issued


MARCHIONESS 1st stage conversion - wheelhouse moved forward and enclosed; main deck enclosed to form ‘disco/reception’ deck


MARCHIONESS 2nd stage conversion – upper deck enclosed to form ‘bar’ deck


MARCHIONSS 3rd stage conversion – after deck enclosed to form ‘beer store’


Collision between BOWTRADER and PRIDE OF GREENWICH at Cannon Street Bridge


Gunner minute re MARCHIONESS stern visibility from wheelhouse and means of escape


Khan minute re MARCHIONESS stern visibility from wheelhouse and means of escape


Hughes minute re MARCHIONESS stern visibility from wheelhouse


Collision between BOWTRADER and HURLINGHAM at Tower Bridge


Amendment No. 1 to British Dredging Standing Orders re need for extreme caution under bridges


De Coverley minute re BOWTRADER / HURLINGHAM collision and urgent need to determine extent of visibility problems on passenger vessels


Shone minute re stern visibility from passenger vessels


Gilbert minute re stern visibility from passenger vessels


P Butcher memo to masters re absolute necessity of strict observance of the Company’s Standing Orders


G W Thompson minute re stern visibility from passenger vessels


Meeting of Commercial River Users at London Dock House re navigation in upper river


P Butcher letter to PLA reiterating extreme concern at possibility of major incident occurring between BOW ships and the pleasure craft and seeking hampered vessel status


Contact between BOWBELLE and scaffolding on Cannon Street Bridge


P Butcher letter to PLA re need for rapid action


Near collision between BOWBELLE and passenger launch ELTHAM at Southwark Bridge.


P Butcher letter to PLA re risk of major disaster


First meeting of River Users Liaison group


Meeting of river users at which concern expressed by P Butcher re possibility of major incident


Collision between SHELL DISTRIBUTOR and NEW SOUTHERN BELLE at King’s Reach


Collision between BOWBELLE and PRIDE OF GREENWICH at Charing Cross Bridge


Internal PLA memo re incompatibility between mode of operation of passenger and commercial vessels and need for communications between forecastle and bridge on commercial vessels


McGaw minute re risk of fatal accident unless requirement for good all round visibility made and enforced


Informal meeting held at M O London District Office re safety of navigation on Thames


De Coverley minute re risk of very serious accident



Vale minute re need for two man bridge watch on passenger vessels


Bason letter to PLA re extreme concern about potentially dangerous situation


List of river craft inspected for visibility from the wheelhouse and found to be unsatisfactory


Creber letter re meeting to discuss measures to avoid collisions


Meeting at Companies House with passenger boat operators re need for positive action to avoid collision with attendant loss of life


Creber minute of meeting at Companies House on 27.9.83


Meeting at International House with commercial vessel operators – “not a case of IF a serious incident occurs but WHEN”


Department of Transport Report re recent collisions and potential for major calamity


P Butcher letter to Masters re continued need to exercise extreme caution


J A Clifford letter to Tidal Cruisers re need to fit side platforms to MARCHIONESS and requirement for additional crew member to maintain all round look-out


Modifications to MARCHIONESS as per above


Meeting at Westminster Pier with skippers of passenger vessels to prevent further accidents which could lead to loss of life


P Butcher memorandum to Masters re necessity of increased vigilance when navigating through the bridges and requirement to maintain good lookout during passage with full use of hand held VHF


P Butcher letter to PLA re continued possibility of serious accident occurring


PLA Notice to Mariners advising vessels less than 40 metres in length not to impede passage of vessels more than 40 metres in length


Holstead minute suggesting MD Memorandum re wheelhouse visibility


Tidal Cruisers letter agreeing to detail crew member to keep lookout whilst HURLINGHAM under way


Clipsham minute re need to fit hatch in wheelhouse of MARCHIONESS


Ludgrove letter agreeing to detail crew member to maintain proper all round lookout at all relevant times whilst VISCOUNTESS under way.


Tidal Cruises letter confirming crewman on HURLINGHAM other than the person at the central position to be detailed to keep lookout whilst underway


Issue of Merchant Shipping Notice M1188 re Good Ship Management


South Coast Shipping awarded RMC Group Safety Certificate


Revised standing orders issued by ECA


Collision between BOWBELLE and BOWSPRITE at Tower Bridge


D Henderson employed by South Coast Shipping as second Mate on BOWSPRITE


Dept approves amendment to byelaw 19 requiring vessels less than 40 metres in length not to impede passage of vessels more than 40 metres in length


Nicholls letter to Tidal Cruises Ltd re means of escape on MARCHIONESS


South Coast Shipping awarded RMC Group Safety Award


Samuel memo to all staff at South Coast Shipping re safety to remain a priority


East Coast Aggregates merges with South Coast Shipping


BOWBELLE Safety Committee Meeting reports on need for new communication system for contact with Forecastle


D Henderson obtains Pilotage Exemption Certificate:


Mcclymont minute conveying ministerial concern re inspection regime and safety equipment on Class V passenger vessels on Thames


D Henderson commences series of trips as supply/extra Mate for South Coast Shipping


Importance of regular safety meetings of South Coast Shipping crew emphasised at Masters’ meeting


Report re need for forecastle talkback system on BOWBELLE with calling facility to Bridge


BOWBELLE dry docked at Sunderland for repair / maintenance work


D Henderson obtains Master’s ticket


D Henderson commences tour of duty on BOWBELLE as Trainee Master.


D Henderson commences tour of duty BOWBELLE as Master.


SCS Memorandum from R Samuel to Departmental Heads and F Darwell re need for SCS to comply with M 1188 (good ship management)


Collision between BOWBELLE and MARCHIONESS at 0146 with 81 survivors and 51 dead


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