NTSB El Faro Report Meeting

There are three major elements to this loss. Crew errors, ship not seaworthy and a failure of the SMS. I think there is something to be gained from digging into each element.

If facts are raised or points discussed that are contrary to anyone’s preferred narrative so be it.

"His critique echoed Coast Guard Capt. Domenic Calicchio’s famous 1984 report on the Marine Electric disaster, the last American marine casualty of similar magnitude. "

You know why there is an echo? Because there is nothing between then and now but empty space.

“Call to action” my ass … all I hear is a can being kicked down the road - again.

How many times have government agencies, military, regulators, operators and all of those who should have, could have, and knew they were supposed to prevent easily foreseen disasters made the hollow claim that “this must never happen again”?


Well, as we all said, nothing will change and all they are doing is placing the blame on the “Other” guy!

In many industries, the insurance companies do the real oversight of the owners. Yes, there are regulations, but often the insurance companies have smarter and better inspectors and demand above and beyond the minimum regulations.

Of the top of my head, pilots flying airplanes may be legal per the FAA rules, but the insurance company is going to dictate minimum hours, training, etc.

Shore side pressure vessels and rotating machinery. Many states have an inspection program and requirements, but the insurance companies often go way above these regulations in their demands.

Government has failed, and will always continue to fail. Why do people here act surprised?

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Well it was a surprise. It was the way everything worked against them.

I once made a distance/speed/time mistake and got an ETA to the pilot station wrong by almost exactly an hour. However we had also gotten the time zone wrong. Could have been a total two hour error but the errors cancelled and we arrived at the p/stn right on time.

On the other hand on the El Faro all errors compounded. The low righting arm, the lack of watertight integrity, the errors in the forecast, none surprising alone, but what are the chances everything would align against?

The first two are related to profits, the low righting arm is a result of an increase in cargo capacity and the loss watertight integrity is a result of cost cutting.

The one thing that surprised me the most was lack of situational awareness with regards to the location of the center.

I ask this question: how many times a year do ships find themselves in weather like the El Faro encountered?

Include any reason: incompetence, caught by surprise, planned routing…

I think all agree the route of the ship was the beginning of the tragedy. But, how many captains make the same errors in routing each year but their ship doesn’t sink?

My point is mistakes happen. Folks are going to misjudge weather. Was the weather that much worse than what you old salts have seen in the North Atlantic or Alaska?

This capt and crew were making decisions based on the assumption their ship was inspected and seaworthy. When I step on the brake pedal in my car, I expect the brakes to work and slow me down. If I rear end somebody at a red light due to brake failure, you can’t tell me “gee, you should’ve started slowing down 2 miles before the intersection.”

I wonder if things might change if the Classification Society’s were employed by the insurance companies and the shipowner dealt only with the insurer. Every one needs the business but in some cases deficiencies are overlooked to keep the customer (shipowner) sweet.
An AHTS in Vietnam was registered in Belize. There was no flag state regulations. At the time a Canadian judge could not extradite a fraudster from Belize to the USA because he couldn’t find any law pertaining to Belize.
If you stood in the Forepeak tank you could damm near see the afterpeaks which didn’t worry the Classification Society. The entire fleet was known as “Reg’s rent-a-wrecks.”

When you drive a 50 year old car, you know that you need to do a good inspection once in awhile and drive conservatively. You should know better that to hot rod it.

You also know that if your friendly local inspection station isn’t really doing its job (they put a new sticker on almost anything — just like the USCG and ABS) , then you have to do your own inspection of the basics like brakes (or water tight enclosures).

You can’t just assume that you can hot rod your 50 year old car and it will perform like a new one.


A better analogy would be if:

you were driving 80 mph in a 50 mph zone - Even new ships should avoid hurricanes. excess risk.

You were driving the wrong way down a one-way street - El Faro drove into the dangerous semi-circle

And your brakes failed on your 50 year old beater. Old ship, lack of watertight integrity.

The excess speed and the wrong way driving turned the result of a brake failure from fender bender to deadly fireball head-on collision.


There has been constant argument on this site about the validity of the Jones Act and the resulting limitations on the operation of non US flag ships on the American coast, but one thing which has resulted from the regulation is a sort of enclosed environment in which a limited number of US flag ships operate. We would think that every vessel involved must be well known to the US Coast Guard, a vast and well equipped organisation and also that they should be familiar to ABS – the American Bureau of Shipping – likely to be the only classification society involved with them. But despite what we might see as the intensive levels of oversight, the El Faro was still found to be wanting in terms of its construction and operational guidance, both areas dealt with by class, either on behalf of the regulators or on behalf of the insurers. So if the inspection process does not work for US flag ships what hope is there for those registered in the rest of the world (excluding Norway of course). But getting back to a fundamental, old age is no excuse for lack of integrity. If your ship is not seaworthy – well, the name speaks for itself.

The USCG is a branch of the US military that operates within the Department of Homeland Security. Its focus is “national security”, terrorism, drug interdiction, and law enforcement. In other words, the fun stuff that justifies carrying bigger guns.

Traditional USCG functions like aids to navigation, rescue, Mariner licensing, and ship inspection are boring and shrinking sidelines that the USCG has lost interest in. Thus the increased reliance on third party inspectors, like ABS and others. Not to mention allowing private license prep schools, including employer operated schools, to administer USCG exams.

Like the US Navy, USCG Officers are mostly generalists that are rotated through a wide variety of duties, so they often don’t develop much expertise in one area. They are promotion focused.

I’m not sure what tickets a USCG Officer has to get punched for promotion, or what types of duty carry the best promotion potential, but my guess would be national security, terrorism, drug interdiction, etc. I doubt that a licensing and inspection specialty have much promotion potential.

Furthermore, there are not enough large US ships left for the USCG to inspect in order to develop and maintain ship inspection expertise.

The USCG simply lacks ship inspection expertise. Ship inspection expertise will never be a serious goal, much less an actual competency, unless the number of US flag ships increases.

If the Jones Act were repealed, the USCG would have so few ships left to inspect, that they would end up delegating all ship inspection to ABS and other third parties.

What’s the cure? Build and maintain more US flag ships. How would we do that? The only way to do it would be more “protectionism.” There is no other way.

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Except they are the ones that know the vessel intimately and know whether it’s seaworthy or not. Inspections are just supposed to be to keep cheap companies from cutting maintenance corners, not a guarantee of seaworthiness.


That’s right, but it’s not just the defects the crew knows about. Getting pounded in heavy weather is when flaws that were not known about before hand are reveled. While encountering heavy weather is also the time when the crew is least able to deal with problems.

Also recall the scuttle left open. That was an error the crew could have recovered from had the ship not been taken into such heavy weather. The open scuttle had nothing to do with any inspections.


Yes, indeed.
However, here the mistake did not just happen; it persisted for many, many hours.
Against the newer evidences from the weather information at hand, the route did still work with a north going hurricane to be passed on its west side, as presumed a day before.

Joaquin did never turn north before the ship went down; on the bridge, the mates were fully aware of this…


Det Norske Veritas was no better or worse than any of the other Classification Societies that I dealt with over the years. They classed two pallet loading coastal vessels where the Naval Architect had been asleep at the drafting table. They both had a substantial negative GM light ship. They survived years of trading in tropical cyclone prone areas but when sold to the third world both sank with all hands.
I have been involved in changing class from Det Norske Veritas to Bureau Veritas to carry French passengers under the French flag and I have seen old tonnage reclassed from Germanicher Lloyd to ABS which might be an indication of where ABS sits in the scheme of things.

I just posted the perception of classification societies ranking somewhere on here.
Look it up cause I can’t remember.

So some are less corrupt and shitty than others, that doesn’t mean any of them are worth anything.

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I’ve been down on the farm since I retired. I didn’t know that DNV and GL had merged.

Heiwa. You are so right.

Every crew knows how seaworthy the ship is.