NTSB El Faro Report Meeting


STCW Manila requires this but there are grandfather rights for existing officers, however Company rules should dictate…


My guess is that the captains did not understand or did not appreciate that heavy weather avoidance for mid-latitude storms differs from tropical cyclones.

A mid-latitude system is relatively large, conditions don’t change much over short distances, once the ship encounters heavy weather, it’s committed. If the weather encountered in a mid-latitude turns out to be worse than expected then the ship’s motion will become unacceptable which will require adjustments be made to course and speed. These motions (heavy rolling, pitching or pounding) can be monitored without going to the bridge.

On the other hand with a tropical cyclone (TC) the energy is concentrated in a very small area. Ship’s motion is a lagging indicator of excess risk.


And this was exacerbated by the fact it was a newly developing TC. It was not one of those hurricanes that had been building as it crossed the Atlantic, passed through the Caribbean, and on upwards. It was a different beast. The conditions as they headed SE would have been deceptively benign until they exited the lee of Rum Cay.


Yes, I recall that the wave contour gradient was very tightly spaced on the side of the system that they entered.


I also remember that they weren’t the only ones caught out; there was a Landing craft that was contacted by the CG that morning to help contact El Faro because they were the only other vessel in the vicinity. However they replied that they were in a survival situation themselves, and ended up being washed ashore on one of the neighbouring islands.

Whenever there is a hurricane approaching the Leeward Islands from the east in the Eastern Caribbean, you can monitor the local commercial vessels on AIS, putting out to sea to head south to wait out the passage of the storm through their home waters. The tugs stationed at St Eustatius are particularly good at this. They were at it again during this year’s Irma and Maria. They head down towards Martinique, wait it out in the lee of the islands, deciding whether they have to keep going further south.

But even local Captains can get caught out when storms develop unconventionally. Case in point, hurricanes Klaus and Lenny, which came from the west. These storms caused problems because the islands are not used to dealing with a reverse approach; the orientation of the storm means all your avoidance plans have to be revised.

It would be interesting to know how often storms approach the Bahamas from the NE. I would think it is a rare occurrence. The old adage about hurricanes: the only predictable thing about a hurricane is that it is unpredictable.


This is from Tote’s report. I think it differs from NTSB so FWIW:


I assume that the table shows data determined after the event, because if it was data available to the bridge at the time it would be even more damning: basically the wind direction remains constant from 22:30 on the 30th to 05:00 on 1st; wind speed and wave heights going up steadily - the classic approach to a storm (as per Bowditch). Which emphasises the need to be able to monitor & plot wind speed and direction on board accurately when close to a TC.


Yes, it’s a hindcast from TOTE, I expect NTSB will have one as well on their full report.


This is from MBI Hearing 1 day 3

CDR Denning: Understanding that you’re on the El Yunque, not the El Faro, did you
9 have any conversation with anyone on the El Faro regarding their anemometer and
10 whether it might be working?
11 WIT: I can’t think of a less relevant thing to talk about, so no I never had a conversation
12 about an anemometer.

A bit later:

Mr. Fawcett: I just want to ask you to restate something. You were asked a question
5 about the ship’s anemometer and you made a comment. Can you take a moment to
6 reflect on that comment and talk about the importance of the anemometer for shipboard
7 operations?
8 WIT: The comment that I made was that I couldn’t think of anything less relevant than
9 the anemometer to talk to Mike Davidson about.
10 CAPT Neubauer: Sir, can you just clarify if the anemometer is important to you as a
11 Master on board the El Yunque.
12 WIT: No the anemometer is not important to me, it’s not a piece of required equipment.
13 In fact, the assessment of weather and sea state and wind direction is done very well by
14 looking out the window. You can also assess wind direction by looking at radar in terms
15 of the direction that has the most sea clutter. And I would prefer ship’s officers to gain
16 their information from there and then see if the anemometer is corresponding to that.
17 That the reliance on a piece of digital data from a little wind propeller on top of the
18 weathervane on top of a mast that has air currents blowing all around it is not a gold
19 standard on reliability of what’s happening with the wind. So I would prefer that to be
20 used as a tool to verify. We do have an anemometer, it does work. I do not look to the
21 anemometer to base a decision on what I’m going to do with the ship and the ship
22 handling because that piece of equipment has a digital read out that says this. I do not
23 think that the anemometer plays into my decisions on what’s going on with the vessel.

From the VDR transcript:

Secondary and Electronic Communications
gunna (look the cable looks) down the on second deck by the bunker
station (things are) slappin’ around.
05:10:53.0 what’s the wind speed?
05:10:57.4 we don’t know. we don’t have (any) anemometer.


Maybe not if your weather info is up to date, but if its not and your ship is de facto the nearest weather station to the storm, you would surely be much better off being able to monitor and plot accurately the precise wind dir, speed, and pressure. Without a clear plot of these you’re less able to judge your position relative to the centre of circulation, and actually worse off than the old sailing ships of 200 years ago. I believe the signs were there, and they just weren’t capable of reading them.
Also worrying is the fact that the need to have a working anemometer on board did not make the list of recommendations in the final CG report… Just seems like common sense.


No where does it suggest TC’s in that area track SW. Always expect the unexpected…


I usually have two hand held anemometers for our cargo load/discharge stations. (In port the winds can be outside the operations envelope via the mast anemometer but fine on station. Or the other way around.)

These are cheap on Amazon ($15.99 is the lowest I see.) A gyro repeater or radar clutter would give direction, and a cheap anemometer would give speed. What a shame that no one bothered to buy a $15.99 anemometer with two day delivery if the primary mast equipment wouldn’t get fixed.


5 posts were merged into an existing topic: We don’t need no stinking compass


Not having a working anemometer was just the tip of the iceberg.

Typically the watches at sea would have some program for handling weather information, it’s a basic function of the bridge watch. If you’re doing that kind of observations than you know this stuff.

For example, as you know, there’s a log book for hourly observations, a requirement for taking observations at set intervals, (usually once a watch, or every hour if winds over F-7), a process for receiving GMDSS weather, FAXs etc. Frequently a requirement to send synoptic weather. A procedure for receiving and plotting SAT-C tropical cyclone forecasts.

By contrast it appears from the VDR and MBI transcripts that the captains at TOTE did not consider that the bridge watch standers had a role in weather awareness.

This is why there was no incentive to have the anemometer fixed, the captains didn’t care and didn’t trust what the bridge watch observed. That’s why nobody would purchase hand held units.


Yet my first thought when reading the VDR transcript was how attentive the Mates were to the weather coming in from the OPC on the Sat-C. I would be happy with any Mate under my command with the same conscienscousness toward the forecast and happily discuss the options. Really sad


To my mind as a small vessel Mariner, a 1300 mile voyage direct from Jax to Puerto Rico is a real ocean voyage.

The Tote officer’s viewpoint was undoubtedly different. To them on a big, very fast ship, it was a boring little 3 day trip in usually nice weather. It kind of resembles a routine ferry run. I wonder if with so much familiarity and routine on a short run, they developed a casual mindset, or had their brains on autopilot.

I wonder if there was an attitude: she’s an old junker and a lot of thing are not what the should be, but it’s not much of a voyage; she’s made it many times before, so she’ll make it again?


It’s all about how crews evolve on different runs.

In my experience ships on easy routine runs in good weather with few ports tend to have low levels of team work. It’s not needed, individual crew members just do what needs to be done with little direction or coordination. Nobody cares what the junior mates think.

By contrast ships on more difficult runs, high tempo, varying ports and so forth are forced to work together as a team because many new problems that the crew has not solved before will arise. Getting the junior mates up to speed is necessary just to keep things rolling.


As far as I know Advanced BRM doesn’t even exist and no, the Manila amendments don’t require a BRM refresher.


A post was split to a new topic: US Coast Guard seeks tighter grip over third parties in wake of El Faro sinking