NTSB El Faro Report Meeting


Moral of the story: even a milk run can bite you in the ass if you become complacent enough.


I think that’s right. I have a robust “program” to deal with the weather. But that’s not because we are particularly clever, it’s because the system we used evolved over a lot of trips in shit weather with RO/RO. Our trial/error ratio hopefully was good but we also had lots of trials. We’ve had shit break loose and do damage.

I spend considerable time with the mates getting them up to speed, doing weather obs, posting current weather, I watch the 500 mb etc. But when we spend a couple weeks in the trades we all slack off.

When we go back into the mid-latitudes I go to the wheelhouse and yell at the mates for not following my weather information handling instructions, even though I haven’t bothered to check myself for several days.

Davidson however couldn’t revive a dormant procedure when one was required because a system never evolved on that run, always in the trades.


It seems to have been complacency but also inexperience operating in a tropical environment. No amount of experience of bad weather in Alaska can prepare you for the speed of intensification and rapid change in conditions that can be found when a hurricane explodes. The sea waters around the Bahamas had been heating up all summer, and SST’s were very high. When the storm moved south west over them it exploded. It was a rare occurrence, a tropical storm developing there and moving as it did. Which is why even someone used to making the milk run to PR might not have seen something like it before. But to say that to take the same course with a new ship would be OK, would be wrong. The course was wrong for any vessel. A tropical storm developing in your vicinity can never be treated lightly. Its development has to be monitored constantly, and course changes made accordingly. That didn’t happen.


I agree. In fact Davidson’s experience in Alaska may have hurt him, the NTSB report mentions that. From reading the VDR transcript there is no indication that the senior deck officers appreciated the risks associated with tropical systems.

Again, agreed. But in many cases a captain could get away with that error, most likely many ships could survive 80 kts and 10 meter seas, the El Faro might have been OK had the scuttle not been left open, freeboard not lowered by 2 feet, maybe some cargo damage. I did about 3-4 hrs in 70 kts and 14- 16 meters one time with no damage.


Which is why because they didn’t this time we should be very careful about exonerating the choice of course & lack of weather sense, and start blaming the short comings of the vessel (obvious though those were).


I try to avoid the blame game but what I object to is along the same lines, blaming the captain. Just saying the captain was an idiot and I’m not, so this would never happen to me is a mistake. I got into the shit because of dumb errors.

That’s why I think companies need a more robust SMS, either the captains or the ships could have hidden problems, ships need to avoid heavy weather.


Anything that helps avoid a repeat performance must be a good thing.


Which is exactly the point of the article about the Bounty by Andy Chase.


Pretty much this, maybe more like this: “I’ll ram through this thing and if we lose a few container and a few car fenders get bent down in the hold that will show them what happens when we don’t deviate.”

Very likely.


To me the idea the Tote explicitly put pressure on the captain on this particular trip doesn’t ring true. The only place I have seen the suggestion that Tote was unhappy with a previous diversion is speculation on this forum.

In my experience pressure is more subtle and mostly implied. The pressure is to keep things rolling without delays, no ops or planning errors. I find it difficult to believe anyone at Tote would want damage or to take higher than normal risks.

What companies want is perfect diversions with no damage and minimal lost time. If Tote was unhappy with a previous diversion most likely it was that the diversion was not efficient, too many wasted miles in comparison to the amount of risk reduced , not simply the fact that the ship diverted to avoid heavy weather.

On the last voyage once the initial routing error was made, not using OBC, it was no long possible to do an efficient diversion as a double back was required .


It’s interesting to me that there is very little talk of the engineers and engine room management. I hadn’t heard a word about the lube oil tank being maintained at a lower than suggested level until the report came out. Perhaps if they had enough lubes in the tank, no loss of plant, and survive the whole thing?


There seemed to be a lot of talk about the gear sump level but never a word about the contents of the lube oil storage tank. Was there no makeup oil available? Why didn’t they start dumping oil into the sump the first time they lost suction?


I don’t think anyone has claimed they did. I doubt they’re that stupid, though there might have been obvious hints given via telephone.

It has been touted as fact for some time that Davidson had taken the OBC earlier in the season and got chewed out for the delay. I’m unsure where that information came from though.


AFAIK it came from speculation on this forum, I’ve not seen it anywhere else.


If I remember correctly there was a report of a conversation between Davidson and I believe it was a mate discussing who was making the list of captains for the new ships and he wasn’t one of them. If it’s hearsay, that’s troubling.


A forum search for “Erica” turns up this first mention from “Kona_Guy”:


I wondered about that as well. We usually carried enough for a recharge.


S.O.P. for a steamboat. Maybe it is another of the issues the CG and Tote just didn’t want to talk about.



Here are the engineers logs prior to the sinking. I think I saw in one of the drawings the capacities for the sump and tanks in the system. Maybe with a little sleuthing and math we can figure out what they had onboard.

Might have been this one I don’t have time to look closely right now.



At the time the E/R was pumping ballast, pumping on the cargo holds, trying to isolate the fire main. Water was coming in, list was getting worse. The E/R did say they were going to try to get it back on line, maybe they did add oil but the list was steady getting worse.

When the turn was made to take off the list the ship flopped over to the other side and the loose cargo came across the holds and likely wiped out the fire main. I think once that turn was made it was over.

Anyway even with propulsion what was the captain going to do? The ship was going down, he had no idea where the center was, which way would he have gone that would have done them any good?