I realize I joined this forum at the tail end of all the SS El Faro discussion(s), and that this may have been all hashed out before in a thread I haven’t seen, but it sure seems to this outsider that there are more systemic issues with how merchant mariners deal with weather issues at sea. The El Faro and the HMS Bounty replica are recent US examples, but every couple of years there’s a story from SE Asia about some ferry of dubious quality being lost in a storm with an inordinately high number of passengers. This isn’t a recent phenomenon either; as a native Michigander I grew up listening to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” every November 10th.
Oddly, this is one area that the US Navy excels in. We haven’t lost a ship to a storm since World War II, and even those losses were considered preventable (Halsey’s reputation may not have been so shiny if the war had dragged on and he was relieved of duty as King wanted). And it’s not like SWOs are weather-geniuses; in fact SWOs get almost no weather training at all. The difference is that the Navy, with its far greater resources has created a system called Optimum Track Ship Routing (OTSR) that monitors both weather and ship’s track and provides advisories and diverts around storms.
Is it too much to expect that merchant mariners do all of their own navigation AND weather forecast plotting? I get that most ships don’t have this issue; most Navy ships don’t play bumper boats either. But there have been multiple instances of significant loss of life under entirely preventable circumstances. The El Faro NSTB report recommendations spend as much time on weather training as they do on bilge alarms, but the best way to do damage control is to not get hit.
I don’t come with a solution in hand; I understand that there are commercial products that approximate OTSR but wouldn’t necessarily advocate that every ship have to clear their tracks like some maritime air traffic control system. Mostly as someone looking down the road at being responsible one day for actually doing this work for myself I want to hear about how everyone else is doing this and what issues there are. Thanks.