NTSB El Faro Accident Report



Seriously though, the actions/logic of the 2/M is what drove me bat-shit crazy at sea, both as Master and mate. You handled it much better than I would. My response would, more or less, have been: “WHAT.PART.OF.THE.CAPTAIN’S. STANDING.ORDERS.DON’T.YOU.F’KG.UNDERSTAND???” followed by some derogatory comments about his mental faculties. . . Yeah. I know. It’s a kinder, gentler merchant marine now. LOL

So a follow-up question for you. If the 2/M had expressed “no concern”, after you said “well done”, would you have still pursued having him call the captain? I ask because, if you removed his concern. . .


You mean if he lied to me? Well that depends on how good of a liar he is :wink:

What peaks my concern is body language. Is he confident? Nervous? Tired? I took a few classes run by an FBI interrogator and it was really valuable stuff.

Many of us picked this profession because, in one way or another, we are not people persons. That said it’s easy to pick up on a lie (or just confusion) in other people if you know what to look for.

P.S. Here’s a link to the FBI guys book, it’s well worth the time: http://amzn.to/2H1DktN


Just came across this:

The captain had been disciplined by a previous employer for causing “disharmony” among officers, as well as failing to follow the chain of command. The company described a loss of confidence in his ability to lead. Before rehiring the captain in 2013, TOTE did not request his personnel records from the previous employer, and according to management, management was not aware that he had two disciplinary letters issued by that company.


An interesting circular on how to simplify SMS’s



Love the plain english stuff. Here’s my favorite book on the topic… it should be a must read for anyone who writes sms.


Let’s do the “Fox News, Fair & Balanced”.

You neglected to include the following from the same source- THE NTSB report.
"Performance. The captain’s most recent performance evaluation was partially completed (“draft”) on October 2, 2014. The port engineer scored the captain’s performance as excellent in all categories except one (cooperation with technical manager), which he left blank. He commented that the captain “handles all aspects of the master’s position with professionalism” and “handles a diversified and unpredictable crew quite well… . .It was provided by TOTE management on request and was said to have been left out of the file inadvertently.”

"The captain’s personnel file contained no documented issues and no evidence indicating that he lacked a set of skills or abilities that would bring his competency as a captain into question. However, the director of ship management and the crewing manager both expressed concern about his performance. In a May 2015 email, the crewing manager expressed “dwindling confidence” in the captain. She told the marine board she felt there were “better candidates available for the Marlins” (the company’s new ships, the Isla Bella and the Perla del Caribe). She added that her dealings with the captain were “regarding crewing, and so I would not have judged his suitability as a master.”


“The director of ship management, in a July 2015 email to the company’s vice president of marine operations, stated, “He’s stateroom Captain, I’m not sure he knows what a deck looks like period. Least engaged of all four Captains in the deck operation.” The director explained to the marine board that the captain “had a different style than I prefer as a Ship Manager. But he was a very effective captain.” No letters of warning or reprimand were found in the captain’s personnel file.”

In summary,

  1. The crewing manager admits her dealings with the master was CREWING issues, not his suitability as master.
  2. The director of ship management said, “He was a VERY EFFECTIVE captain” (emphasis added)

And as far as a disciplinary letter for disharmony? That’s a pretty weak infraction. Heck, I think I got a disciplinary letter for breaking wind on the bridge. Something about creating a “hostile work environment”. That’s when I knew they were looking to hire my replacement; one from the "good-ole-boy academy.


I didn’t provide any context in my cut and paste but all the stuff you posted was also in the CG report, what I posted was, AFAIK, only in NTSB report and I believe is new information which is why I noticed and posted it.


Generally, personnel files are confidential. The lawyers today do not let a company do much more than confirm the position, dates of employment, and maybe salary. I think some states may prohibit releasing salary data. At many companies no one but HR is allowed to talk with anyone seeking references. They usually don’t know the person and they have been trained to say very little.

It has become really difficult to check anyone out with an employer.


You are correct that employers can not say very much about an ex-employee. They way around this is to ask one very simple question, Would you re-hire them at any point?


It’s position, dates of employment, and eligibility for rehire. As far as I’m aware nothing else may be disclosed.


That’s really easy to say looking back, knowing all the facts and the ultimate outcome, but I seriously doubt you would have done anything different than the 3M and 2M did.

I’ve seen audit hits for standing orders being too long and yours would definitely qualify.


You didn’t actually read the entirety of his comment or don’t understand what he said. The SMS gives a way for mates who think the captain is derelict in his duties to go above his head, it’s called call the DPA. That’s the reason they exist.


The lawyers have trained office staff not answer that question. If an HR staffer was going to answer that question, she would say “of course he’s always welcome to reapply.”

Depending on who I’m talking to, I’m a little more old school. But I don’t over do it; you have read between the lines.

Guys sometimes have exit paperwork that says they are eligible for rehire, but that does not mean that they will actually be considered. HR is trained to send the guy off feeling as good as possible about the company. It costs nothing to hand him a meaningless piece of paper saying he’s welcome to reapply anytime.


Hindsight is not only clearer than perception-in-the-moment but also unfair to those who actually lived through the moment.



I was under the impression that that was an allowed question to answer. They are allowed to tell you the employee’s eligibility for rehire, and the HR person likely knows nothing other than if the box on the form is checked or not to be able to subtly give anything away.


I guess no law prevents anyone from saying that someone is, or isn’t , eligible for rehire. It may be that some State has law that insulates a former employer from liability for answering that question. I don’t know what HR textbooks might say today. I’m often a bit out of date .

It could be more a question of what lawyers think is least risky. Many employees have some grievance against the employer. Often good ones. Or they might be potential whistleblowers. It’s best to let them quit and have them leave on the best possible terms thinking they are welcome back. If HR then tells potential employers the guy is not eligible for rehire,and he’ll figure that out if he cannot find a job, he’s apt to file a claim or report something. Why risk that?

The less said the better.


Blackballing is real and happens but employers have the law or lack thereof on their side as long as they do not egregiously violate some federal statute. Unless an employee is working with a company with a collective bargaining agreement the employee is an employee at will and the employer is an employer of will. Some states such as Texas even protect the employer from defamation lawsuits from former employees.
Most attorneys won’t touch a lawsuit against a former employer without some whistle blower help and a big retainer up front. If you can afford to fight a former employer you probably don’t need another job.


Not to mention that most applications have a section you sign saying they’re allowed to collect information from previous employers.


In NTSB’s Final Accident Report, the board member T. Bella Dinh-Zarr filed a dissenting statement, on pp 258-9. She is a medical doctor, may be with some insight into the human brain’s complexity.

Therefore, I dissent on adding the mates’ assertiveness as a finding in this report.

I have no final personal opinion, but to me, reading this dissent seems worthwhile.

As for the cited experience of 2M and 3M on identical ships on the Puerto Rico run, they were far longer than the captain’s one; in the broader sense of the captain’s standing words “I have seen worse in Alaska…” (…without hurricanes):

Captain = 2 years
2M = 10 years
3M = 5 years


I agree. I see it as a error vs blame or fault issue.

Had the mate’s used different language perhaps the outcome would have been different. So the NTSB appears to be “blaming” the mates. In my view the mates performed exceptional well.