this statement from Kennebeck Captain got me thinking that this is a big question to ask in the wake of the loss of the EL FARO in 2015. he states Davidson took on “excess” risk but what constitutes that? What level of risk at sea is an acceptable level and what is going too far? Is it somehow the balance of the potential loss vs. the potential gain? Certainly, to risk one’s own survival and that of your fellows is a massive risk to take which only could be justified in extremis times such as during war or if overtaken by violent weather. Maybe there is risk to loosing the ship in these cases but there already is that potential in play but in circumstances which are not in extremis, such as approaching a strong storm?
I guess it is critical that one must have awareness that there is risk and to be aware of the potential consequences of the decision made. I took a vessel out past Cape Spencer with storm warnings posted when there as no valid reason for me to. I failed to consider the consequences of that action both in comfort of those aboard but more importantly that the extreme motions in that massive sea might precipitate a failure or that there just might be a failure of a critical component of the ship even without the seas but being in such seas losing that system (such as say the steering gear) might be fatal although when in calm waters it would not be. I failed to perceive the risk I was taking. I believed the ship to be tight and able to take the seas but didn’t see the risk that if we went beam on then there might be downflooding resulting. again, nothing happened, there was no damage and other than one person who was so violently seasick had to be taken off in Seward no personnel loses.
so we come back to the EL FARO…was Davidson even aware of ANY risk he was taking? In the case of the EL FARO it was flooding, the ship could survive downflooding in calm weather but could not in a storm however there is nothing to indicate the master considered this or was even aware of the condition? if he was aware, he appears to have perceived the risk to be far less than it actually was but even if he perceived a small risk in pressing on, was even that justifiable? I cannot see it at all!
should ship masters be given training in evaluating risk and is there some way a person’s judgement be quantified so it can be measured his ability to safely command? how can this be evaluated other that through one’s past record of decisions? who would be the evaluator? the employer? should crewmembers be given the opportunity to provide their assessment of the master’s overall judgement? official logbooks allow for evaluation of crewmembers by a master but is there one single person at the CG MSC who looks at what is submitted in an official log? is there anyone at all in the USCG qualified to assess a master’s competency to command?