Skip to main content

SS EL FARO VDR TRANSCRIPT

NAUTICAL LOG has published Posts about this tragic ship sinking since the very first report of her loss.  Today the NTSB has released her VDR data in particular the Navigation Bridge voice recorder - it is not good.  This Post is compiled from multiple Media sources.

On October 01, 2015 the SS El Faro a freighter sank with all hands, 33 crewmembers lost their lives and no bodies were ever recovered though one was sighted by the USCG in a survival suit but not picked-up.  By an extraordinary search, resumed at the insistence of a U.S. Senator from the State of Florida, the VDR was found  and now after months of investigation some results have been released. 

The ship left Jacksonville, Fl. bound for San Juan, PR and sailed directly into the eye of a Category 4 hurricane named Joaquin.  Why the ship was where it was in the first place is a question yet to be fully answered but it seems that the Master was more focused on fuel consumption than plotting the path of the hurricane Joaquin and changing course to avoid the worst affect.  This in spite of the Officers pointing out that the ship had closed to just 22 nautical miles from the hurricane's centre.  Then at 0615 the vessel lost power, listed severely and at around 0730 sank with the loss of all hands.  It seems extraordinary that apparently twice before her sinking while he still had power to do so the Master had declined to alter course based it appears on his consideration of an extra 160 nautical miles the additional fuel it would consume and getting permission from the Company to alter course.  This is not good vessel management it is not even good sense.  Since the transcript is 510 pages long one would have to read it in its entirety to learn all that happened however several points have been extracted by the Media.  From these it is evident that navigation was done with an over-dependency on electronics using a system called BVS, which NAUTICAL LOG is not familiar with, and that this system seemed to fail or be inaccurate as were the reports from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fl.  All one can say as to that latter statement is that having lived in South Florida for 40 years one has considerable faith in the NHC professional work.  From their own recorded words in the transcript the Master and Officers did not appear to have the professional knowledge to make their own assessment of the situation as a whole or if they did have it the ability to apply that professional knowledge.  By and large reading the transcript extracts quoting the Navigation Bridge staff conversations gives an impression of persons who have no experience of being in Command or standing Watch in a ship whatsoever.

The U.S. Merchant Marine is completely bound by Unions, the Officers have one and the Seamen a separate one.  This seems to restrict the actions the Master and Officers can or are willing to take and adding this to a Company's policies removes the actual decision-making from the Master limiting the range and ability to make decisions.  Reading the transcript is a very sobering affair considering the actual results of this Master's actions or lack thereof and the somewhat flippant remarks made by him in the hearing of the Officers and crew on the Bridge.   This is never a good or wise thing to do in front of one's crew and clearly, again from the conversations recorded, caused considerable distress to several of those crewmembers.

Good Watch.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

HOW TO WEAR A LIFEJACKET

A popular U.S.-based cruise ship style
A popular European ferry style

Several times during the year NAUTICAL LOG has had visitors searching for lifejacket instructions. With two just over Christmas we decided to publish something for everybody to see and read.
Choose a Coast Guard approved life-jacket and make sure it is undamaged. Make sure life-jackets are readily accessible, never locked away. Check the fit, there are adult, child and infant sizes, the correct one MUST be used. Choose bright colour life-jackets so as to be seen easily by Search and Rescue (SAR).Put your life-jacket ON BEFORE you leave the berth. Make sure you have a light and whistle attached AND they BOTH WORK.
Good Watch

AN tSEIRBHIS CHABHLAIGH

This month saw the commissioning into the Irish Naval Service of a new Class of Irish Naval vessel more of the Frigate size than the previously Corvette size.  However they are all classed as Patrol vessels, the new vessel is LÉ Samuel Beckett P61.NAUTICAL LOG wishes her well and a successful service.


The older vessels saw unbelievable service and value for money the first being commissioned in 1979 and continued through the '80's and 90's into the 21st. Century.  During those years in addition to patrolling the stormy seas around the rugged Irish coast they made passages across the Western Ocean to the United States and Canada, south to South America as far as Argentina, and east to Asia as far as Korea.  Such passages are really remarkable for such small vessels and show the competence of Irish seafarers who as Naval Officers and Merchant Marine Officers train together.

Good Watch.

ISM CODE - AUDITING

Ships now operate under the International Management Code for Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention (ISM Code).  Since this is a Post on Auditing NAUTICAL LOG, who is a Trained Auditor, will not go through the requirements as these can be found on the Internet and in your local nautical bookshop - you do have a bookshop hopefully as they are a dying breed.  There are two types of Audit an External Audit and an Internal Audit.


The External Audit consists of the Flag State or an outside Auditing Firm coming into the Company and going through all the Protocols, Procedures and associated Manuals.  They may also hold a drill simulating a situation in one of the Company's vessels and observe the results of the Shore Staff dealing with it.  NAUTICAL LOG has been through this experience with two very different Companies and believe me it is a long, difficult, trying day not made any easier by the subsequent debrief.  The External Auditor then prepares a Report which causes a…