Exxon Valdez

The public and their often ill-informed opinions aside — I have known folks who sailed with Hazelwood prior to this unfortunate incident in both deck and engine departments and every single one of them said he was a damn good man to sail for and extremely intelligent.


He should of become an aircraft pilot, much easier to be an alcoholic and have a career.

I agree that this is not the best time to be beating up on Hazelwood. It’s a time to be thinking about his family and friends. He was treated poorly in the press.

That said it has come up on this thread. It boils down to good seamanship. In other professional domains it’s sometimes called “best practice”.

From day one there was a narrative created that Hazelwood was in fact following best practice and the blame for the incident falls upon the third mate.

So while Hazelwood was “responsible”, in quotes, it was really the third mate. I’d guess that support for this idea depends largely upon which academy was attended. Evidently SUNY believed their reputation was threatened.

To be clear, I am a SUNY graduate, and my personal view is I hold Joe completely responsible for the accident. It is also true that Greg was maybe over his head, and Kagan was completely incompetent. But Joe left the bridge with the ship standing into danger, that, in itself is not an issue. But he has to maintain his awareness that the ship needed to be turning at a certain time. And he needed to insure that turn was made. Either by looking out his window in the cabin, or better still, maybe a good time to go up to the bridge for a cup of coffee.

And I have little doubt that Joe probably held himself responsible. But he was a good man, people are complicated. All of us have failed or done things we are not proud of. His was very big, and very public. And he handled what was an awful event with grace.

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I agree with your posts here. But I do think that one reason this subject continues to get beat to death, here for example, is because of a fundamental disagreement.

One the one hand Hazelwood was an excellent seaman, on the other hand using pre-BRM methods suffer from the flaw of having a single point failure.

This lesson was learned, on the aviation side, after the Tenerife airport disaster. Experienced and skilled professionals sometimes make serious errors. On the maritime side hopefully it will be learned from the El Faro loss.