Welcome to a chapter of the e-book Disaster Investigation.
3.4 The Function of the inner Bow Ramp
The bow ramp behind and inside of the visor protecting the opening into the superstructure was also of simple basic recognised design. It consisted of a strong plated frame grid with four hinges at the lower end on deck 2. The tyre pressure of the trailers rolling over the ramp decided the scantlings of plates and stiffeners of the ramp. The ramp also acted as the inner, weather tight door protected by the visor leading into the enclosed superstructure of the no. 2 car deck (the garage) and should be able to withstand a certain water pressure. Note that the ramp was not watertight - only weather tight - and it was accomplished by normal rubber seals.
Note also that the lower end of the ramp is about 2,5 meters above the waterline. According international rules the ramp should be as strong as the hull above the waterline, the superstructure, taking into account its position at the fore end of the ship, and the national maritime administration was responsible to check this as per the Load Line Convention 1966. The ramp was designed for carrying heavy trucks, so it was stronger than the superstructure (the forecastle).
No Description of the Ramp - all Details censored
Chapter 3.3.4 of the Final report (5) contains a 'Detailed technical description of the bow loading ramp' (sic).
In spite of the fact that the yard on 2 November 1994 sent a full set of drawings of the ramp to the Commission, there are no drawings whatsoever of the ramp and its locks in the Final report (5).
The Commission had of course previously stated that the ramp had been ripped open - for unknown reason - before they had any details whatsoever of the ramp design. When they got the details of the locks, etc. they realized that it could not have been ripped open - so all details were censored in the Final report (5).
The ramp was, like the visor, hydraulically operated. When closing the ramp, two hydraulic pistons lifted it up. Then two hooks were moving out of openings in the port and starboard front bulkheads and gripped round steel bars at the two sides of the upper part of the ramp below deck 4 and pulled the ramp against the rubber seals around the ramp opening. Then two locking pins each side moved out of the side frame, one after the other, into mating pockets on the ramp side itself. In fully extended positions the pins activated limit switches connected in series and when all four pins were engaged the green indicator light on the control panel on the car deck was activated - the ramp was closed and weather tight.
Each hook had a tensile strength of 25-40 tons. Each pin/pocket could withstand a load of about 25 tons. The hinges at the lower ramp edge could withstand similar loads. Thus the ramp was kept in place by ten attachment points and the hydraulics. When opening the ramp (the visor must then be in the open, parked position) you evidently open the locks and allow the hydraulics to lower the ramp on the quay. The ramp had 'flaps' in the upper side, which were extended - swung out, when the ramp was lowered, i.e. they made the ramp longer - see figure 3.3.
Guardrails were fitted port and starboard on top of the ramp. As there was no space for the outside end guardrails in the closed position of the ramp, the top parts of these guardrails were folding inboard.
The ramp was resting against a frame attached to two longitudinal bulkheads inside the superstructure ending at the front transverse bulkhead, which in turn was located forward of the ramp. This bulkhead had a rounded top strake attached to the upper deck 4. It meant that the ramp was inside a 'tunnel' - if the ramp were opened, e.g. 1 meter at the top, the lower part of the ramp at deck 2 was still 'inside the tunnel' between the longitudinal bulkheads. It meant in turn that the openings in the sides - the wedges - between a part open ramp and its frame was blocked by the 'tunnel sides' and that very little water could flow in that way, if the ramp was open and the fore ship pitched down into a wave. When the ramp was part open - figure 3.11 - the lower part of the ramp was still inside the tunnel.
In chapter 3.3.2 in the Final Report (5) about the visor the Commission states that:
"The geometry was such that the ramp must be completely closed, so that it would not come in contact with the visor, when it was opened or closed."
This is not correct; it suffices to look at the figures. The ramp could be opened at least 1 meter at the top without touching the visor, when it was opened or closed. However, the hydraulics were probably arranged so that you could not open/close the visor, until the ramp was closed/locked. Unfortunately the Final Report (5) does not describe the ramp design, hydraulics or damages in any detail.
To stop the ramp hitting the fore peak deck of the hull (by accident), it was attached to two 'preventer' wires connected to the ramp top beam edges restricting downward motion.
No Description why the Ramp opened
How the ramp was ripped open by the visor is not described in the Final Report (5).
The Commission just invented the story that the visor became lose and pushed forward (sic) against the ramp top and - hokus pokus - that the ramp was ripped open, i.e. two hooks, four locking pins/pockets, two preventer wires and the hydraulics were damaged 1.17. Actually the Commission made its statement, before it had verified by divers the condition of the hooks and locks and other outfit, which were all inside the garage and above/inside the ramp, and in the end the Commission said that they were never examined 3.10. Only the bottom hinges could be examined from the outside. Any reader can check the Final Report (5) - there is not one picture of a damaged ramp hook or locking pin pocket and no drawings of these attachments. The reason is that the Commission announced in October 1994 a false course of events including a ripped open ramp, without knowing how the ramp was designed or damaged.
And the visor had never damaged the ramp!