USCG El Faro Investigation Report


Absolutely right.


Maybe getting somebody NOT American and not besotted to anybody or anything American to be the inspectors would help to get rid of a bad culture in US shipping?

Most quality flags use third party inspectors from recognized Classification Societies approved by the flag authorities.


Sorry to say that ABS in the UK has a reputation for being one of the more ‘relaxed’ of the IACS, in particular for build quality in China. Mind you other IACS societies have their moments!


Yes, and the problem of class shopping is a world wide problem. That’s why the only way it would work is mandating a specific agency, without the owners having the ability to fire them and go elsewhere if they don’t like what the agency says.


RINA is the worst


Despite the experience required, at ever increasing levels of competency, and the many technical skills you must acquire to obtain a license as a Master Mariner, you should not attempt to sail as the Master of an ocean-going ship unless you have an independent mind, possess a firmly grounded sense of right from wrong, and a crystal-clear priority of your responsibilities: safety of the crew, the environment, the ship, and the cargo. You must be prepared to stand your ground and tell the company that they are wrong, when the situation warrants such. At the end of the day you will be the one that is there while they are safe ashore. If they have ever been in your position and were any good at it, they will respect your judgement.

For any 3rd Mates out there that aspire to command: organize your life now, save your money, live below your means and have an ample “Go to Hell Account” accumulated. You never want to make an operational decision at sea based on your financial situation.


Very well said.
Your post should be typed in big fonts, framed and hung on the bulkheads in the cabins of all 3rd mates.
Another point. Every seafarer owes it to his family to return home safely. A Master is not paid enough to risk the future of his wife and kids.


I’ve been very fortunate for the past decade to work for a company that had multiple retired Masters in the office. I’ve always felt they will have my back when I’ve had to call them prior to sunrise with “news”. Unfortunately that will be coming to an end next year when the last person with a semblance of seagoing experience retires. I haven’t worked out how I’m going to adapt to that yet, but I’m certainly not going to betray my training or values.

Your post is as spot on as it gets. Unwavering pragmatism and the principle that you will enjoy full nights of sleep for the remainder of your life, secure in the knowledge you did the right thing, are the hallmarks of a successful Captain in my book.


Easier said than done but as DamnYankee says, your post is spot on.


Well said, words to live by.


Why not? At first glance it seems like a good idea. But first ask yourself why the Steamboat Inspection Service no longer exists. Read up on its history, and why its duties eventually got folded into the USCG a long time ago.

The SIS became a corrupt and ineffective safety agency. The inspectors were prone to accepting bribes and looking the other way, or were incompetent, or both.

How do we know this? Because the investigation of the horrific loss of life (over 1,000 men, women & children) when the General Slocum burned in the East River revealed the awful truth.

Switching agencies alone, or creating a new one, won’t necessarily do anything to fix this problem of human nature. The institutional rot runs deep today as it did then. A real culture change would need to take place, and be maintained against enormous pressure. Historically, that’s a bad bet. That’s not to say that it isn’t worth a try, though.

Read the story and draw your own conclusions.


A flag state authority can appoint any independent Surveyor they want to perform inspections on their behalf.
They can also require a Classification Society other than the one holding class for the vessel to act on their behalf. (Admittedly the same Class entity issuing certificates on behalf of flag state is usuallyalso holder of class)

In many cases ISM and ISPC certification is issued by different entities from class. (Some flag states and underwriters require it)


I agree with you on the corruption and bribery…but please note I suggested using it as a model. Thinking about my original post and your reply though, I am inclined to believe that the creep towards corruption and a less than thorough inspection regime seems to be a common thread in many government agencies. MMS pre-Macondo, SEC investigations of Wall Street in the past decade, your example of the SIS…

In the end it comes to good people and establishing a climate where doing the “right thing all the time” is encouraged and stressed from top to bottom. The question, as always, is how.


as opposed to the USCG today? I am not saying that USCG vessel inspectors are taking money bribes to look relax their demands upon owners but they are always under pressure by higher ups who are looking at their career after they retire. Promises of well paying jobs in the future is its own form of bribery. Of course, lower level inspectors just follow orders which is a result of the militarization of the USCG.

I say every function of the USCG which is related to the commercial maritime industry such as vessel inspection and licensing of mariners should be run by civilians because they are regulating civilians. They should also be well paid so they are not a risk of being influenced. How does the FAA work in this regard? The USAF is not in charge of airliner inspections!


There are two different debates here. One is narrow question what can a captain do as an individual when shoreside asks for something the captain feels is unsafe or too high risk.

The broader question is how to correct the system overall which is biased against the authority of the captain.


It would need to pay really well to both attract qualified people and disincentivize bribery.


All too frequently the shore-side management and other entities will seek to undermine the Master’s authority while steadfastly refusing to assume any of the Master’s responsibility.


Obviously as an alien, can I ask what the USCG sees as it’s primary function?


Pretty much the same as these guys.


Reading the entire investigation report was a stark flashback to the tragedy, the so many ways it and the tragic fate of the crew could have been averted. Heart wrenching.