High winds unlikely to have toppled dry docked Petrel, says marine architecture academic

An incident which saw the research vessel Petrel  (IMO 9268629) topple over at an Edinburgh dry dock, injuring 35 people, of whom 23 required hospital treatment, was unlikely to have been caused by high winds, according to Iraklis Lazakis from Strathclyde University’s department of marine architecture. He said it was “very unusual for such accidents to happen”.

The Health and Safety Executive is to investigate how the vessel came to fall over to a 45-degree-lean. Police Scotland are also investigating.

The ship is owned by the United States Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Centre and operated by Oceaneering International. During the Covid pandemic it was placed in long-term moorage in 2020, and had been laid-up ever since.

The dock is owned by Dales Marine Services

Dr Lazakis said that he himself had never come across any such accident. “No such thing has happened before”, he told the BBC.

Gusts of up to 38mph were recorded inland from the dockyard at Gogarbank at 08:00, according to Met Office data, but Dr Lazakis did not see how wind could have been the cause of the incident. “The dry dock is like a dug-up big ditch or shelf where the ship sits down with all its structure and weight. So it might have been unlikely just to be tipped over by the wind. It’s something that really needs to be investigated very, very thoroughly in order to make sure what was the original cause of the whole accident, but I have to say it is a very, very unusual thing to happen within a dry dock.”

The 76m Petrel was purchased by the United States Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Centre in October 2022, and was operated by Oceaneering International. The vessel was previously owned by the estate of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

A US Navy spokeswoman said: “We continue to communicate with our contacts at the scene in order to understand what occurred, the actions being taken, and the long-term impacts.”

The 2003-bult, IoM-flagged, 3,374 gt research vessel is entered with Steamship Mutual on behapolf of Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC).