The MV Herald of Free Enterprise Capsized 30 Years Ago


The MV Herald of Free Enterprise Capsized 30 Years Ago Today.

Good article here: The Herald of Free Enterprise Casualty and
Its Effect Upon Maritime Safety Philosophy

A hauntingly[B] similar incident occurred almost four years earlier[/B]
on another Spirit class vessel. In October of 1983, the assistant
bosun in Herald’s sister ship Pride slept through the “Harbor
Stations” loudspeaker call, resulting in Pride departing Dover
with open bow and stern doors. In total, before Herald’s
capsizing there were no less than five occasions when one of the
Company’s[B] ships went to sea with bow or stern doors open.
Addressing this situation, one of the masters wrote to
management, pointing out that[/B]:
“There is no indication on the bridge as to whether the most
important watertight doors are closed or not. That is the bow or
stern doors. With the very short distance between the berth and
the open sea on both sides of the channel this can be a problem

June 1985 and October 1986, three masters of Spirit class
vessels requested in a manner that called for a “considered
reply” the addition of a visual indicator on the bridge.
Shoreside management refused these requests, responding that
such technology would be unnecessary redundancy of crew
responsibility to secure the doors.[B] Astonishingly, this requested
sensible safeguard was mocked by management, whose internal
memoranda included: “Do they need an indicator to tell them
whether the deck storekeeper is awake and sober? My
goodness!!” and “Nice but don’t we already pay someone!” and
“assume the guy who shuts the doors tells the bridge if there is a
problem.[/B]” (Sheen, 1987) The Sheen Report noted “these replies
display an absence of any proper sense of responsibility.” Also
absent was the necessary quality of respectfully receiving,
considering and responding to constructive reports and
recommendations from subordinates. The Report further
commented that shoreside management was “not qualified to
deal with many nautical matters and were unwilling to listen to
their Masters, who were well qualified."


This was a key finding:

Especially troubling was the Company’s standing order 01.09,
“Ready for Sea”:
“Heads of Departments are to report to the Master immediately
they are aware of any deficiency which is likely to cause their
departments to be unready for sea in any respect at the due
sailing time. [B]In the absence of any such report the Master will
assume,[/B] at the due sailing time, [B]that the vessel is ready for sea [/B]in
all respects.” (Sheen, 1987)
This order was unsatisfactory in many respects. It accepts that
negative reporting by silence equates with positive transmission
of critical information. “Reporting” by silence does not equate
with positive transmission of important information. The result
is uncertainty and ambiguity: is everything OK or is everything
not OK but for a multitude of possible reasons, no report of any
deficiency is made? In fact, the Sheen Report makes clear that
regularly there were conditions that made the vessel “unready
for sea” – excessive number of persons on board, draft not read,
insufficient officers to confirm that the bow doors are secured,
etc. Yet, the wording of the order permitted – in fact directed –
the Master to assume the vessel “ready for sea,” i.e. seaworthy,
in all respects in the absence of any adverse report.