Exxon Valdez Grounding #2

Or he coulda like…seen the red sector of Bligh and not plowed into it like a retard. No Greek required.


Agree. MickAk. He was taught that early on at his particular academy. So…lack of wisdom( or retainment of) , common sense, or both. The lawyers made a big deal about a lot of things, but that SIMPLE observation early on would have made a difference that evening.

I suppose the argument could be made that the Captain lacked metis for allowing him the watch. Two people with the exact same training and experience are not necessarily ready for equal responsibility.

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Some may perhaps argue that the mate wasn’t ready, he fucked up, and knew better… Agree, people with exact same training are not equal in ability. Big difference between a captain and a third mate on experience alone even if they attended a similar or same academy. But both were trained the basic skills and know the red sector means you ain’t in good shape here partner.

Never said same skill sets. Navigation 101 says stay out of the red zone. And look out the window.

I have read the transcripts from Valdez accident investigation in it’s entirety. It was distributed to all of our vessels for perusal.

Blight reef didn’t have a light at the time, it was marked by Bligh Reef Lighted Bell Buoy 6. The light with the red sector was installed after the incident.


Well how about that, wasn’t aware. Thx KC . A bouy that was on the chart and could be perhaps noticed on radar as well as visual. Situational awareness was not there by all involved on the bridge at the time and lookouts. Perhaps the young lady on watch had a clue? It’s been a great while since I read the lengthy transcript.

Thanks, that’s handy to know.

Edit: I went and looked it up and it was Busby with a red sector. I thought I had gone crazy there for a second.

Here is Exxon Valdez Grounding (#1)

USCG had nothing to do with the grounding. Reporter didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground.

“The moment of truth,” Hazelwood says flatly. “Give me right 20.”

“Right two-zero, Cap,” says Fitzpatrick.

The ship begins to swing. Hazelwood does not look to the radar screen for proof; he waits to see it, as he later says, “to feel the turn.” The red buoy light begins to slide across the windows, imperceptibly at first, then with silken rapidity. After two minutes, during which time we’ve advanced a bare seven-tenths of a mile, our 1,000-foot, 250,000-ton virtual supertanker—weighing 40,000 tons more than the Exxon Valdez—has turned on a dime. The buoy bobs innocuously off our port side. We’ve missed Bligh Reef by more than two miles.

Eyes on the horizon, Hazelwood speaks. "That’s all you’d have to do. That’s all anybody would have had to do."

Reminds me of the story of the retired (in some versions) engineer.

Charles Steinmetz worked for General Electric for 31 years as a consulting engineer.

As the story goes, after retiring from GE, Steinmetz was hired back to help fix a malfunctioning machine.

After carefully inspecting the machine, testing various parts, looking thoughtfully here and there, he produced a piece of chalk from his shirt pocket and marked an “X” on a particular part. Later, after dismantling the machine, GE technicians were amazed to discover the flaw was exactly where Steinmetz had made his chalk mark.

They were almost as astounded when, several days later, Steinmetz sent them a bill for $10,000.

Seeking some sort of explanation from its long-time electrical guru, the company asked for an itemization of his bill. GE received this breakdown:
For making one chalk mark on machinery: $1.00
For knowing where to put the chalk mark: $9,999.00

Piloting a ship by eye is a skill that takes time and experience to learn. But it’s sort of like learning to walk, once the skill has been mastered most people do it without thinking about it.

The second thing about piloting by eye is it can be learned by wading slowly into the shallow end of the pool or by being shoved into the deep end. Mariners that learned in the shallow end, gradually over time may not be aware of what it’s like getting shoved into the deep end.

Inexperienced navigators are not going to have confidence in navigation by eye alone and will want to plot fixes on the chart. Which was exactly what the third mate in this case was doing.

That was a good read. Thx for putting it up. I did remember the helmsman was a mess and “Maureen” alerted them before shit hit the fan. . In a way, the industry changed for the better towards the approach to oil transport safety. OPA 90 being the result, but at great cost, in more than money.

She did… and she didn’t. The report that Blight reef buoy was on the stbd bow was not new information. That’s where it was expected to be given the plan to go around the ice. The captain put the buoy on the stbd bow when he turned - then he left the bridge.


She reported it twice, the first time was before the ship had reached the planed turn and the second time was after the third mate had already given the rudder order.

BTW here’s how the other tankers felt their way around the ice - with the captains on the bridge at the time.

I think that is a decent theory JD. Hadn’t looked at that angle. I’ve seen that happen occasionally with a few mates that were on the bridge with a pilot but not engaged so to speak until guided tour is over. Last company I was with the powers that be encouraged us to do our own steering under the direction of the pilot if a pilot was required. Kept you in the process chain. I agreed with that instead of sitting idle.

That is likely true but the third mate was taking the pilot down, I’d have to check but I believe the captain made the first turn before the third mate returned.

Time line

Mar 22, 1989

2335 Exxon Valdez Arrives Valdez Marine Terminal

Mar 23

0054 Transfer of ballast water started
0415 Transfer of ballast water complete
0505 Transfer of oil began
1030 Hazelwood, Glowacki, and Roberson went ashore
1924 Loading of cargo completed
2020 Pilot Murphy arrived at the ship for the outbound trip
2030 Hazelwood, Glowacki, and Roberson returned to the ship
2040 Hazelwood arrived on the bridge to find the pilot waiting
2112 Last line
2121 Vessel clear of Dock
2130 Hazelwood left the bridge
23__ Hazelwood returns to bridge
2324 Exxon Valdez drops off the pilot
2330 Hazelwood changes course to 200T
2339 Third mate Cousins plots a fix / Hazelwood changes course to 180 T (due south)
2353 Hazelwood leaves the bridge, orders third mate Cousins to change course when abeam Busby Light (2 minutes ahead)
2355 Third mate Cousins plots a fix abeam Busby but does not change course.
2400 (midnight) Lookout reports Bligh Reef on the Stbd bow - Cousins orders Right 10 rudder
Mar 24
0004 Cousins orders right 20 rudder
0007 Cousins orders hard right
0009 Exxon Valdez strikes Bligh Reef at 12 kts.(at 12 kts 1 mile = 5 minutes)

At 2324 the third mate was on deck.

Naked island is a ways down there. I guess that’s possible but you would have to be zoned out awful hard.

2355 was a very important course change instructed to do. , 2353 is a time Hazlewood wishes he had back, hindsight is 2020. Feds used Cousins like a scalded dog, he had a rough time later in his career gaining the trust of fellow mariners.

how much sleep had the bridge crew had?

I am not sure I understand the analogy. The Feds gave Cousins immunity for his testimony. That he (Cousins) had a rough time later in his career is certainly understandable. If he reported aboard your ship at what point would you be comfortable with him in traffic or near land? Just as Hazelwood will forever be associated with the spill, within the maritime industry Cousins will will be known as the one who was on watch, had the Conn, and failed to make the turn.