Wednesday, September 14, 2016

BENDING RULES - AN UPDATE

As hoped there were updates to the NAUTICAL LOG Post "BENDING RULES".

We would direct those interested to the excellent "OLD SALT BLOG"  and read the comment by Doug Nash who is a member of the S.S. John W. Brown crew.  Mr. Nash explains the USCG procedure which is similar to that for non-U.S. registered vessels.  It might be well for their website to reflect this data so that peace of mind is given to those of us who know the hazards of the sea only too well.

How sad that it appears the S.S. El Faro was not so well cared for. 

Good Watch.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

BENDING RULES?

Today is the 15th. Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States and is now known as Patriot's Day.  One can remember with horror watching the second plane ram into the tower and the resulting fires in both towers leading to their collapse and the destruction of The World Trade Center.  Sadly it is now known warnings were ignored which led to this terrible Islamic Terrorism act.

As part of the remembrance of this dreadful event the S.S. John W. Brown based in Baltimore, MD is due in New York.  This vessel is one of two, the other being the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien based in San Francisco, CA., World War 2 Liberty ships.  Both these vessels have been fully restored, are registered as vessels of the United States Merchant Marine and are manned by USMM volunteer Union crews.

As part of their role as active floating museums they are open for daily visits and tours of the ship.  Also offered for about $145 per adult are "Living History Cruises" which depart in the morning around 0900 returning, safely one hopes, around 1700. Why is NAUTICAL LOG concerned about their safety?  Well these vessels are not passenger vessels and  it seems do not have lifesaving appliances to cover the allowed number of persons on board. 

According to the reply to my question of the S.S. John W. Brown they stated -
 "We can carry 730 passengers on a Living History Cruise". 
Frankly one was shocked!!  How can this be certified by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) ?

Having spent many years as a cruise ship Officer in various positions particularly that of Safety Officer one knows at firsthand the incredible nitpicking that goes on when the USCG inspects these vessels, which already meet International Maritime Organization (IMO) standards, for US Passenger Ship Certificates.  Yet here we have two  WW2 Liberty ships allowed to carry hundreds of people on "Living History Cruises".  So it appears that the Rules applied by USCG to non-US flag vessels are different to those applied to US flag vessels.  This was already evident from the disgraceful condition of the S.S. El Faro when she was lost with all hands last year and whose VDR was recently recovered and is being examined.

Remembering all those lost fifteen years ago today and hoping that there is never an accident with those two old WW2 Liberty ships we say

Good Watch.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

WHEN

Now that the VDR from the SS El Faro has been in the hands of the NTSB since early August 2016 one hopes that the results of the data recovered will soon be made public. The NTSB has stated that 26 hours of information is available.  That information includes Bridge audio, navigational data, onboard radar images and wind data.  The timeline begins at 0537 on September 30, 2015 some 8 hours after the vessel left Jacksonville, FL.  The ship was then about 150 nautical miles southeast of that city.

On the morning of October 01, 2015 at 0613 the Master and crew members are heard discussing action regarding the flooding, the vessels list and the loss of propulsion.  The Master then notified the shore office about the critical situation and said he was going to send out a distress signal.  At about 0730 he sounded the abandon ship alarm.  The recording ends some 10 minutes later and the SS El Faro is now about 39 nautical miles northeast of Crooked Island, Bahamas.  As this data is refined the times may be adjusted but appear to be generally accurate.

So it appears that at about 0600 or earlier the vessel is already listing, flooding and without propulsion clearly in very serious negative condition.  However it is not for another one hour and thirty minutes at 0730 that the abandon ship alarm is given.  One has to wonder why the apparent delay, sadly no one survived from the vessel and only one body was sighted which was not recovered.

Clearly there will be questions about the Masters decision making process and it is easy to "monday morning quarterback" but one has to wonder knowing this area as NAUTICAL LOG does for some 40 years why the vessel was where it was in the first place and not making its passage via the Straits of Florida.

Good Watch.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

RECOVERED

There was excellent news this week regarding the loss of the United States ship S.S. El Faro last year.  Finally after a certain unwillingness to locate and recover the vessel's Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) it was recovered from 15,000 feet on Monday and brought aboard the surface ship at 2230. 

Rather than repeat the whole story here NAUTICAL LOG suggests you go to a full article published in gCaptain at www.gcaptain.com

Hopefully there will data recorded that will assist in understanding the tragic decisions made by, presumably, the vessel's Master prior to the sinking with the loss of all hands.  See  previous Posts by NAUTICAL LOG.

Good Watch.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

STANDING DOWN PROBLEMS CONTINUE

In addition to the recent "Standing Down" of training voyages for its Midshipersons the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) has received warnings about the quality, or lack thereof, of its training programme.  The Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE) report stated that accreditation was in jeopardy for non-compliance in certain areas.

Coupled with the continuing problems requiring disciplinary actions including dismissal from the Navy the United States Navy (USN) has had in recent years this does not bode well for the professionalism of the seafaring community of the United States.

It is clear to this writer, an International Master Mariner with 50 years of experience, that the training sources for both Officers and Ratings need an immediate complete examination and review.  Currently the Officer commanding riverine craft based in Bahrain has been dismissed.  Another nine Officers and Ratings are under disciplinary action as a result of the capture by Iran of two riverine craft on passage through the Arabian/Persian Gulf.

It seems the general decline of standards of behavior and execution of duties in the Nation continues as the current White House Administration fails to show little or nothing in Leadership.  One has to wonder what will actually happen as a result of the upcoming 2016 General Election and a new United States President in 2017.

Frankly one is not encouraged !!

Good Watch.

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.