Avoidable deaths

The Flying Phantom (your ­report, 23 April) would have been designed and built to tow from a towing hook with a compressed air release, with at least three ­positions from where the release could be triggered.

The main reason for retrofitting these conventional tugs was to reduce manpower levels – the necessity of manually flaking out towing wires and junks being done away with.

The risk assessment which would have been carried out prior to a major alteration to the original design would make interesting reading.

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This class of tug had poor handling characteristics, hence the retrofitting of a bow thruster.

The bow thruster hung in a pod below the keel, and once aground would have altered the tug’s centre of gravity.

While there were many errors made during the operation, the main failure was the use of an antiquated, modified vessel in an unsuitable environment.

Modern harbour tugs using water tractor propulsion such as Voith are virtually impossible to capsize.

The families of the crews are right to call for a fatal accident inquiry, which may identify those whose decisions led to avoidable deaths.

Ross Harbison


East Lothian