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