Friday, June 17, 2016

STANDING DOWN

In a previous Post we discussed the decline of the United States Merchant Marine (USMM) now it appears the situation is so bad that basic shipboard discipline cannot be enforced.  Is this due to the Masters and Officers incompetence, the power of the Maritime Unions to overrule them or a combination of both.  From what NAUTICAL LOG has seen and heard it appears to be a combination of both.

The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) has announced that it is "standing down" Sea Year.  This is when the Seniors go to sea in USMM vessels to experience directly what life at sea is all about - well the United States Maritime Union controlled version anyway, rather different from other Nations Merchant Navies as NAUTICAL LOG well knows from 50 years as a seafarer.

The concern is that the USMMA cannot guarantee the safety on board USMM vessels of the Midshippersons as we suppose one must now call the USMMA trainees.  One gets the impression that sexual assault is rampant on the campusi of United States Universities including USMMA and this in turn is carried on to USMM vessels. 

The mind boggles frankly at all this.  For this decision to have been made by the Maritime Administration (MARAD) there must be a clear basis for concern.  Truly these United States are  rapidly descending into a cesspool if they have not already done so.

Good Watch -  if one sails in the USMM y'all will need it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

FINALLY AN ATTEMPT TO RECOVER

NAUTICAL LOG has on previous occasions discussed the SS El Faro VDR in a Post titled RELUCTANCE TO RECOVER and two other Posts about the VDR (Voyage Data Recorder) of the SS El Faro

The Ship sank in Hurricane Joaquin on October 01, 2015 off the Bahamas.  There has seemed to be a reluctance by all parties involved to continue the attempt to recover the VDR from some 15,000 feet - admittedly a considerable depth.  However because of the importance of possible data on the recorder such an attempt must be made.

Finally the NTSB has contracted with the USN Supervisor of Salvage to assist in the recovery of the VDR.  The USNS Apache will depart in early July 2016 together with USCG, Phoenix International and an underwater operating vehicle the CURV-21.

Once the VDR is recovered it will be brought ashore to the NTSB laboratory and thoroughly studied to download and analyze the information.  With these results in hand the USCG will conduct a two hearings to investigate the sinking and question witnesses.  A third hearing is planned for later this year and will likely analyze the data from the recorder.

With the extremely long time in accomplishing this investigation one has to wonder if the fact that the USCG licensed, drilled and inspected the vessel, which was in deplorable condition, has a bearing on these apparent delays.  It has taken pressure from the Democratic Senator for Florida Bill Nelson to keep things moving and one feels that it is largely due to his pressure that this recovery attempt is even taking place.

Good Watch.

Monday, June 6, 2016

JUNE 06, 1944

NAUTICAL LOG would like to take a moment this morning to thank all who served in World War 2 and particularly those who landed on the beaches of Normandy, France this morning. 

At that time one was an eight year old boy beginning to understand what was going on and going to church with my mother to pray for "the lads".  My Mother had already experienced  both World War 1, the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Troubles that followed before Ireland became a fully independent nation.  One can remember the terribly wounded Veterans of World War 1 and now here it had all repeated itself once again.

NAUTICAL LOG is now in his 80th. year more than likely one has achieved this and a long most enjoyable career in the Merchant Navy due to the sacrifice of others.  So thank you to those who rest "In Flanders Fields" including members of my own family.  Rest assured you all are not forgotten by this Merchant Navy Officer.

Good Watch.

Friday, June 3, 2016

HARDLY PRACTICAL

NAUTICAL LOG has previously addressed comments by an American Merchant Marine Officer who following the policy of his Union refers to the numerous cruise vessels operating out of U.S. Ports as FOC vessels.  Of course nothing could be further from the truth, both he and his Union wallow in this antiquated concept that anything non-American is substandard. In passing it is worth mentioning that a U.S. Flag vessel, the S.S. El Faro with a full U.S. maritime Union crew and in the most deplorable condition, was lost with all hands last year off the Bahamas. It sailed directly into the path of a hurricane in one of the most puzzling decisions by her USCG licensed and maritime Union Master. 

As the United States continues to slip towards a Third World status with a rapidly declining infrastructure, an outdated transportation system particularly the railroad system so far behind the European Union in both speeds and comfort of trains.  Then we have the armed crime ridden cities which the local governments seem to be unable to curb and control.  Many of us who became U.S. Citizens by choice watch in disgust.  Sadly instead of working to help improve the situation it is reported that now many native born citizens are leaving the country and unwisely giving up their USC.

In a comment to "Old Salt Blog" the USMM Officer asks what can be done to save the USMM from further decline.  The answer he got from that blogs owner was enlightening and well worth reading.  In addition NAUTICAL LOG decided to comment as well from the perspective of an Officer who served during three decades in passenger ships in various parts of the world including the cruise lines based in South Florida and Alaska.

We suggested that the USMM does not mann any of the cruise ships operating from U.S. Ports mainly one believes due to the overbearing maritime Unions requirements which suffocate that possibility.  Attempts to do so by the cruise lines have ended in disaster as one cruise line found out when they tried U.S. Union crews from Honolulu, HI.  Also in Hawaii a U.S. operation to provide Inter-island ferries also had to be shut down due to impractical State Regulations and maritime Union requirements.

So what has brought all this on in a NAUTICAL LOG Post.  Well the American Union Officer concerned has it seems being doing some thinking about his Merchant Marine and perhaps his Union.  In our comment we suggested that the USMM had to be rebuilt from the top down and the bottom up.  Unions had to change from the "them and us" concept and work with management by having seats on the Board to build a successful company together.  The infamous, outdated and impractical Jones Act is no longer needed and should be abolished.  In all honesty we do not believe this is possible in the United States so the decline will continue apace perhaps depending on the result of the upcoming general election.

Recently NAUTICAL LOG received a catalog of their cruises and vessels from an American cruise line which operates magnificent paddle vessels on the larger rivers running north/south and east/west of the United States.  It was interesting to learn on contacting them that their first choice for Captains and Officers where former USCG and USN personnel used to dealing with "affluent passengers of the country club set".  We thought that a classic arrogant reply - no class distinction in the United States !!  While their paddle vessels were luxurious the small vessels they operate were cramped with only one lounge forward and a dining room aft.  Yet the cost of a cruise was many times more than those offered by the Cruise Lines based in U.S. Ports.  In fact it is far better value to obtain a package offered by European river cruise lines and fly to Europe for this type of vacation.

So between attitudes like that in the maritime industry and the requirements of the maritime Unions it would seem the USMM has an uphill battle if it is to stop its continuing decline and success is not forecast !!

Good Watch.

Monday, May 16, 2016

BOYS BOAT RETURNS

UPDATE May 31, 2016:

Well so far we have heard nothing further from the FWC about their examination of the boat returned to Florida.  It would tend to appear that there was in fact no indication of foul play in the loss of the two young men.  One has to conclude therefore that it was a tragic boating accident with two persons missing as first thought. 

One might mention that while lawyers have their place particularly in the American system of sueing for everything possible it is sometimes best if they do not make statements on a subject which are inaccurate and merely show that they in fact know little or nothing about that subject matter. Perhaps we could use in our legal system a protocol which disciplines lawyers when they do this type of "ambulance chasing" it would improve the legal system and most importantly ease the pain of already suffering families.  Just a thought !

A container ship arrived in Port Everglades, FL on Sunday and amongst its cargo is the boat belonging to the two boys lost 10 months ago.  It is due to be unloaded on Monday afternoon and NAUTICAL LOG will have more information later.

A lawyer retained by one of the families has suggested that there be a "proper forensic examination" of the boat.  The FWC had stated they would "take a look" at the boat no doubt if there were any suspicious indicators a full forensic examination would take place.  This incident is still listed as a boating accident with two missing persons.

However one must remember that this event happened 10 months ago and during that period the boat drifted in the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift Current to the vicinity of Bermuda.

Good Watch.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

GEMS OF NAUTICAL KNOWLEDGE

NAUTICAL LOG has spent a career at sea of some 50 years with over 20 years in passenger vessels.  This was followed by instructing nautical science, consulting and telling sea stories, one often hears the comment "oh you should write about that" - well I think not in my case.  Of course there is this blog NAUTICAL LOG which covers nautical affairs and includes items which often irritate and hence the relative Post.

For some months we stopped publication but due to the highly inaccurate comments in another blog in particular to their Posts on the cruise vessels operating from U.S. Ports we decided to republish and so here we are a highly activist maritime blog watching the nautical world.

We also realize that not everyone who goes to sea as a passenger (called "guests" by the hotel persons who seem to run most cruise lines these days) knows anything or maybe just a little about seagoing life.  Many times on the Bridge Tour one was asked questions which showed that there was little if any knowledge of shipboard affairs.  For many of the passengers it turned out it was the first time they had ever even seen the sea !!  Therefore NAUTICAL LOG  has decided to offer an answer to your questions on the subject. Also those who operate boats have questions about Nautical Science or would like an opinion on seagoing knowledge. 

In order that you may make contact with some degree of privacy and security we are publishing a direct link.  We shall keep any e-mail received confidential and if requested will not publish the answer to a particularly private question on nautical knowledge.

Therefore if you have questions about nautical affairs or would like us to address a nautical item in one of our Posts feel free to contact NAUTICAL LOG at dpeterboucher@gmail.com  in a courteous and professional manner (abusive and unprofessional e-mails will be erased on receipt)

We look forward to hearing from you and

Good Watch.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

RELUCTANCE TO RECOVER ?

Once again the U.S. Maritime Authorities seem to be finding reasons not to recover the VDR from the SS EL FARO which sank in a hurricane off the Bahamas with loss of all hands.

This week various media sources including U.S. Military websites stated that it will take "months to cover the VDR".  One asks WHY ?  Also some of the publications say that the VDR is attached to a deck girder  to which the signal mast was also attached.  NAUTICAL LOG described this in a previous Post.  The photos shown to not appear to confirm that the VDR was still attached to that deck girder when found on the ocean floor.  Confusion or a deliberate cover-up ?

All this is not encouraging because of the appalling condition of this U.S. flag vessel which if it had been a non-U.S. flagged vessel would have been condemned by the USCG under IMO Regulations.

The various actors involved in this deplorable affair give the impression of feeling they will be better off if the VDR is never recovered and the possibility of obtaining data of the ship's last moments never known.

Good Watch.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

POST ON A COMMENT

Looking through the maritime blogs as we do each morning we were interested to read a Post in one entitled "CARNIVAL's FATHOM ADONIA DOCKS IN HAVANNA, CUBA".  Yes they spelt it with two "N's". 

This  is a so called "cultural exchange" cruise (brothels and bars perhaps?) which will also visit Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba on the South coast of Cuba in addition to the Havana Port call.  NAUTICAL LOG has called at Cienfuegos in March 1954 to pick up a pilot for the coastal passage to Tunas de Zaza a small Port at the end of a railway line from the city of Sancti Spiritus.  There we anchored off for two weeks loading sugar and listening to the guns firing at the Cuban rebels, led by the Castro brothers, fighting to the East of our anchorage.  Quite an experience for a 17 year old boy on his first voyage.  Well ancient history now but I think interesting.

The above named Post had a comment and a reply to that comment both worth reading.  We have decide to reproduce the comment here:

" harry t scholer says:

I heard this story countless times on the news yesterday, both on the radio and cable TV.  My only beef is the fact that all the reporters used the same phrase : "First American cruise ship to call on Havana in decades."  The Adonia is not an American cruise ship, it is an FOC cruise ship.  An American cruise ship employs American seaman, flies the stars and stripes and adheres to all the regulations that govern U S flag vessels.  The Adonia doesn't.  Sadly most americans probably believe that report and that the assortment of ships operating out of places like Bayonne, Baltimore, Miami, etc. are just that, American.  What a deception.  BTW This is not an attack on the crew of Adonia, just a simple statement of fact."

Well now we have reproduced his comment to that other blog down to any misspelled words and lack of upper case usage so as not be accused of editing.

Let us now take a look at this comment, which is not a statement of fact it is Mr. Scholer's personal opinion, and Mr. Scholer does not live up to his name.  First of all this excellent vessel is fully compliant with the IMO requirements and British Merchant Navy Regulations.  It is registered in the Crown Colony of Bermuda and her Master is Captain David Box one of the most highly respected Masters of both the P & O line and the British Merchant Navy which itself existed before the United States was even thought about.  Mr. Scholar uses the term "FOC" in a derogatory manner, which he has done before, to try and degrade non-American flagged vessels.

The IMO Rules and Regulations are enforced in the U.S. by the USCG and one has to wonder how they enforce them on U.S. flagged vessels after seeing the condition of the SS El Faro which resulted in its tragic loss.  Due to the Rules of Mr. Scholer's Seaman's Union attempts to use U.S. flagged vessels from Hawaii ended in complete disaster as did an Inter-Island ferry service.  NAUTICAL LOG was in Hawaii at that time so saw and heard about the operation firsthand. 

Mr. Scholer has a lot to learn and indeed apply to his comments, about both his own American Merchant Marine and the Merchant Navies of other Nations. One suspects that his mind is somewhat blocked by having to always and fully follow his Seaman's Union's line otherwise he would likely be "blacklisted" and not be employable in American Merchant Marine U.S. flagged vessels.

Good Watch.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

LOST BOYS SMALL BOAT FOUND

On July 24, 2015 two 14 year old boys left West Palm Beach Florida to go fishing.  This was not something new for them as friends they often went fishing together usually in the Intracoastal Waterway or nearby - but not that day.  For some reason they decided to go offshore in spite of a poor weather forecast.  It is reported that they filled the tank with 122 gallons of fuel and headed off to sea.  They were never seen again.

A search by USCG and others was initiated when they did not return that evening.  On July 26 their boat was sighted and reportedly its position marked by the USCG.  The USCG arranged for a private  contractor to recover the boat however the contractor was not successful in finding the boat next day.  Why the USCG did not recover the boat has not really been explained by them. 

Recently the boat was sighted up near Bermuda by a Norwegian vessel who recovered the boat and it has been taken to Norway where it will be placed in a container and returned to Florida.  A full investigation should then take place.  Surprisingly personal items belonging to the boys were also found and these are, we understand, at present going through forensic processing.

Video taken by surveillance cameras as the boat and boys passed under a Bridge at Jupiter Inlet on their departure has now been released.  One of the boys was reported as being a very experienced boatman and in the video he is shown transiting on the starboard side of the channel, this impressed me however what did not impress me was that neither had shirts on or were wearing lifejackets.  Also the other 14 year old was sitting on the port gunwhale facing the helmsman.  No such good seamanship for stated experienced boaters - even 14 year olds.

Once they arrived offshore in degrading weather conditions we of course have no idea what happened that day nearly a year ago  Hopefully an investigation will reveal something useful but it will be extremely difficult to do so.  What has not been in the least helpful is a remark by apparently a lawyer involved on behalf of one of the families that the possibility of foul play existed because the Norwegians found the ignition key in the OFF position and also the main battery switch, which was fitted in the console, also in the OFF position.  We do not know if this lawyer has any boating experience to make such a judgment from one fact like this is wildly speculative.  As an experienced seaman would know, indeed one local captain has mentioned this, if there was a problem with the engine it would be wise to conserve the battery power by placing these switches in the OFF position.

When conducting maritime investigations there are 500 page manuals to guide one from several Nations and the IMO, visit "Google®" to see one.   My own system is to make a page with several columns list possible events to speculative events (excluding aliens and the so called Bermuda Triangle) and as the facts develop moving items from the possible column to the probable column.  Finally developing the scenario in a logical manner.

Good Watch.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

VDR FOUND UPDATE

Further to the previous Post a reason for the possible deliberate release of the SS EL FARO VDR is that VDR's come in both floatable and non-floatable designs.  The floatable design can be combined with an EPIRB which would aid to it being found in the event of a ship sinking - which the SS EL FARO did in the hurricane.

Therefore we would suggest that the "Senior Officer" thinking that the VDR was possibly of the floating type deliberately released it so it would float clear and be found after the vessel sank. The action therefore was done with the best of intentions and not part of a coverup

Good Watch