Three years ago, the scene was Cargados Carajos Shoals 240 nm north east of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The sailing vessel Vestas Wind had driven themselves onto a charted reef after failing to adequately use both electronic and paper charts. In a Cinderella story, the boat was salvaged, rebuilt and took part in the last legs of the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race (VOR). Continue reading “Vestas in the Volvo Ocean Race : Where’s the accountability?”
Fatigue. It’s a way of life for so many of us. From first responders to students to the transportation industry, it’s a badge of honor to pull the all nighter or push through an extended period with no rest. But, at what cost?
The military is another community for which fatigue is no stranger. U.S. Naval Special Warfare (NSWF) pushes their troops to the limit during initial training (Basic Underwater Demolition/Seal Training (BUD/S)) under very controlled circumstances, including stressors such as hypothermia and sleep deprivation.
“Insanity : doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
Almost five years ago, USS Porter was involved in a collision in the Straits of Hormuz with the MT Otowasan. The damage pictured above was severe and cost in the neighborhood of $50 million to repair. Thankfully, there was no payment in blood for USS Porter, as there were no fatalities nor injuries to the crew. The same could not be said five years later and just two weeks ago when USS Fitzgerald was involved with a collision with the MV ACX Chrystal. In this latest tragic collision, seven U.S. Navy sailors lost their lives. In addition, there were numerous injuries on USS Fitzgerald, including the commanding officer (CO).
The similarities in the collision location are striking, as can be seen in the side-by-side photos above. The circumstances of the collisions may differ, but the result was very similar. In the Fitzgerald’s case, the damage – particularly below the waterline – was much more extensive due to the pronounced bulbous bow of a containership. Had USS Porter been struck by a different vessel (or same vessel as USS Fitzgerald), the situation may have been more dire.
It’s ironic that the January 2017 issue of the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings contained an article referencing the USS Porter’s collision in 2012. That article (linked below) recounts the fact that many can learn from the mishaps of others. The article’s author, Capt. John Cordle also lamented that there is a paucity of reports regarding such collisions or incidents. It appears that reporting of more minor incidents, also known as near misses throughout the safety industry, is discouraged or frowned upon within the U.S. Navy surface warfare community. This, as well as the lack of access to official reports of collisions, groundings, etc of U.S. naval vessels, is unfortunate as, once again, much can be learned from the mishaps of others.
Albert Einstein is oft-quoted as saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The use of incident reports or near misses – whether they be from commercial or naval vessels – can help educate the junior officers – again, whether they be commercial or naval. The price paid, be it in blood, tax dollars or corporate income, is not worth the silence that often follows major incidents.
The U.S. Navy is certainly not alone in not wanting to shed light on some of its actions. Flag states such as Panama, Liberia, Cyprus and other flags-of-convenience (FOC) frequently publish minimal or no investigation reports for major incidents. Try to find out what caused the explosion on Hyundai Fortune (Panama-flagged) in 2006 or the loss of Leros Strength (Cyprus-flagged) in 1997 and you will find the same stone wall as if you wanted to know how USS Porter was involved in a collision.
Let’s be safe out there.
Additional Reading and Links
12 miles off the coast of Cochin, India a small fishing boat bobbed in the sea. Perhaps the fishing was done for the day and the 14 Indian fishermen onboard were resting, awaiting the rising of the sun and a new day. Or, perhaps they were taking advantage of the light of the full moon to extend their work day. Regardless, tragedy approached for 3 of the 14. Continue reading “Fishing Vessels : Avoiding them means avoiding the consequences”
“In meeting steamers do not dread when you see three lights ahead, right your wheel and show your red.
If upon your port is seen a steamer with a light of green, there’s not much for you to do, the green light must keep clear of you.
But if on starboard red appear, tis your duty to keep clear. Do as judgment says is proper, port or starboard, back or stop her.
In meeting steamers you should try to keep this maxim in your eye. Green to green and red to red, perfect safety go ahead.
If in safety or in doubt, always keep a good lookout. Should there be no room to turn, stop the ship and go astern.” – Rickard Anderson
On August 12, 2014, the bulk carrier Flag Gangos was downbound on the Mississippi River, outbound for sea with a full load of grain and corn. During the outbound transit she suffered a steering gear casualty that resulted in her collision/allision with a moored oil tanker, pier and tank barge at IMTT Gretna, Louisiana. Total damages to all vessels and the oil terminal totaled close to $17.5 million. Continue reading “Steering Gear : Curing the Root Cause, Not Just the Symptoms….”
Something went dreadfully wrong off the coast of Belgium early Tuesday morning. Whether it was a machinery malfunction, the misapplication of the International Collision Regulations (COLREGS) or other human element factor, a collision occurred between two merchant vessels – the 315-meter LNG carrier Al-Oraiq and the 130-meter cargo vessel Flinterstar. As can be seen below in the YouTube video of their AIS data, the incident happened off the port city of Zeebrugge.
Of the 12 man crew on the cargo vessel which was severely damaged, 11 apparently were rescued unscathed, while the 12th crew member was treated for hypothermia. With the water temperatures off Zeebrugge around a chilly 16° C, it is fortunate that the Flinterstar did not sink completely and came to rest on a bank. The LNG carrier sustained damage, but was able to make it to port in Zeebrugge with the assistance of a tug.
COLREGS Rule 14
a) When two power-driven vessels are meeting on reciprocal or nearly reciprocal courses so as to involve risk of collision each shall alter her course to starboard so that each shall pass on the port side of the other.
b) Such a situation shall be deemed to exist when a vessel sees the other ahead or nearly ahead and by night she could see the masthead lights of the other in a line or nearly in a line and/or both sidelights and by day she observes the corresponding aspect of the other vessel.
c) When a vessel is in any doubt as to whether such a situation exists she shall assume that it does and act accordingly.
The investigation report for this incident will be read with great interest when it is published. In the meantime, we can only speculate that there was a lack of communication and poor application of the rules of the road. We might expect that vessels in such a situation would both alter course to starboard, eventually passing safely port-to-port. In the event that either vessel couldn’t comply – due to factors such as water depth – early and effective communication of the actions taken would be paramount.
Also of interest might be the use of any sound signals in the final moments prior to collision, as well as the rest-work cycles of the crew members involved. As safe manning of vessels comes under increased scrutiny, might this incident be a sign of the lack thereof? Or is it simply a matter of training? Whether there was a lookout (or an effective lookout) might also be a question to be answered. Any way we view this incident or questions it raises, we can use it as a teaching moment and discuss with our bridge teams what NOT to do and what we might do instead.
Let’s be safe out there!