Third and final hearing into loss of SS El Faro scheduled Feb. 6, 2017

Third and final hearing into loss of SS El Faro scheduled WASHINGTON - The third and final Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation hearing has been scheduled to commence on Feb. 6, 2017, in Jacksonville.
This hearing will examine additional elements of the investigation including crew witnesses, TOTE company officials, Coast Guard officials and contents of El Faro’s Voyage Data Recorder, including the transcript of bridge audio recordings which was released Dec. 13, 2016, by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The NTSB, which is conducting its own concurrent investigation, will fully participate in the Marine Board of Investigation hearings.
[B]What:[/B] Marine Board of Investigation, third and final hearing
[B]When:[/B] Commencing Feb. 6, 2017. An updated advisory will be released containing additional schedule information.
[B]Where:[/B] Prime F. Osborn Convention Center, 1000 Water Street, Jacksonville, FL 32204
[B]How:[/B] There are several ways interested parties may stay up to date with the MBI proceedings.
The Coast Guard will be tweeting live hearing updates from @uscoastguard with the following hashtags: #CGMBI #Elfaro.
An e-mail has been set up for interested parties to ask questions or make comments. This e-mail will be checked regularly. The e-mail is:
The Coast Guard is also hosting a live stream of the proceedings. The web address for the live stream and an archive of past El Faro proceedings is:
[B]Media coverage: [/B]
Reporters must register to attend the hearing by emailing: Media must register no later than 4 p.m. Friday, February 3.
[B]Ground Rules for the EL FARO Hearing are:[/B]
Reporters may attend open sessions of the Marine Board, as may members of the public as long as they do not detract from the decorum of the proceedings or inhibit a witness’ willingness to testify. The Coast Guard’s policy is to permit expanded media coverage of marine casualty investigations; therefore, audio and video recordings are authorized under the following conditions:

[li]Media pooling will be required[/li][li]Witnesses will not be available for interviews until the Marine Board Chairman releases them from their testimony[/li][li]Entering and exiting the hearing room shall only be conducted during designated breaks[/li][li]No extreme close-ups of documents, witnesses and/or members of the Marine Board[/li][li]Bench conferences shall not be recorded by audio or by extreme close-up video or photography [/li][li]Media members must prominently display their credentials at all times and remain within their assigned area [/li][li]Confidential communications between counsel and client or co-counsel shall not be recorded by audio or by extreme close-up video or photography[/li][li]Questions regarding the proceedings shall be directed to the Coast Guard media liaison. A liaison will be present at the venue throughout the hearing[/li][/ul]
Failure to adhere to these rules or other verbal instructions may result in removal from the hearings.
For additional information, please contact Alana Miller at or 202-510-6523.

Hearing is underway, those with low bandwidth who can’t watch can follow along on twitter. Some people I’ve followed during past hearings;



Viewing anemometer(measures wind speed) now, lots of questions as to if it worked @ActionNewsJax #ELFARO #CGMBI

The matter of the anemometer keeps popping up. It is a digital instrument and as such suitable to be connected to the VDR’s main unit. In view of the uncertainty as to if it worked shows that it was not connected, otherwise the data should have been available.

It was established in an earlier hearing that it was inop.

At the hearing there was a report that the anemometer wasn’t working at one point, the actual status on the last voyage was unknown. The subject of the anemometere come up numerous times in the VDR transcrips, at one point mate said something along the lines of, obviously one number (either direction or speed) was not correct, what about the other? the captain replied that he wouldn’t trust it, refering to the anemometer.

[QUOTE=Dutchie;194927]The matter of the anemometer keeps popping up. It is a digital instrument and as such suitable to be connected to the VDR’s main unit. In view of the uncertainty as to if it worked shows that it was not connected, otherwise the data should have been available.[/QUOTE]

Depending on age, make and model, not all anemometers are digital and therefore may not be capable of being a S-VDR input.

FULL COVERAGE Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation hearing session on El Faro sinking Local Updated: 3 hours ago New analysis shows likely series that led to El Faro’s sinking Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation report El Faro 3 hold By Stephanie Brown Jacksonville, FL —
It’s “highly unlikely” El Faro would have survived in the weather conditions she faced, even if just one hold had flooded. It’s the finding from the Coast Guard Marine Safety Center, who- at the request of the Marine Board of Investigation- put together a “Stability and Structures Preliminary Report” investigating potential contributors to the sinking.

El Faro sinking Dr. Jeff Stettler, a Naval Architect with the MSC who is also a technical advisor for the MBI, led the research efforts, and outlined his findings during the first day of the final hearing session. He found that, while El Faro was operating within the intact and damage stability standards required for her age on her final voyage, she was doing so without a lot of flexibility to address a stability problem at sea.

Stettler says the ship was operating with limited ballast capacity, and had some other factors that impacted their flexibility. He also confirmed what we’ve previously learned through these hearing sessions, which is that some of the other tanks were occasionally left slack- a factor that wasn’t computed with the ship’s cargo software and could have impacted stability.

Through the Captain’s final shoreside communication, we had previously learned that El Faro had taken on water in the 3 hold. The Captain believed this was because of a blown scuttle. The transcript from the Voyage Data Recorder showed that the crew later reported a bilge alarm going off in the 2A hold.

“By this point, it had been reported that the vessel was heeling to an angle of approximately fifteen degrees, and it was likely that water would have been entering at least intermittently through the cargo hold ventilation system in to hold 2A,” Stettler says.

Stettler believes that the flooding in 3 hold- added to the wind and sea conditions the ship was facing in Hurricane Joaquin- led the ship to position in a way that allowed for water to get in through cargo hold ventilation openings and in to hold 2A, and potentially further in to two and one. The report says the ship would have started to capsize, or turn over, although that may have actually been slowed as cargo fell off the deck, because that would have added stability. The continued flooding ultimately led to the ship returning to upright, and sinking, according to Stettler.

“It would be highly unlikely the El Faro could have survived even a single compartment flooding of hold three given the sea conditions with estimated 70-90 knot winds and 25-30 foot seas,” Stettler says.

As part of his report, Stettler also concluded that El Faro would not have met intact and damage stability standards required of ships of more modern construction. Because of El Faro’s age, there were several things allowed on board that weren’t for more modern ships- for example, El Faro was allowed to have open lifeboats, whereas newer ships must have enclosed ones.

[QUOTE=Chief Seadog;194953]Depending on age, make and model, not all anemometers are digital and therefore may not be capable of being a S-VDR input.[/QUOTE]

You are right, as far as I know the make and type was not mentioned. Tote must have that information or surely the service company. Even if it was a digital one it must have a digital output to be able connect it to the VDR’s main unit.

It’s too bad the audio sounds like it is in an Echo Chamber. Seems to be a little bit better today although.

With regards to the; “not a major conversion” ruling, I believe that meant that the ship was grandfathered in under older stablity rules. The hull lengthing still would have required an incline test and revision of the stabilty booklet still would have been required.

Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation hearing session on El Faro

By Stephanie Brown
Jacksonville, FL —
El Faro’s sister ship, which had been destined for the Alaskan trade, is instead getting scrapped.
How investigators found “extensive wastage” on board is part of the latest scrutiny a Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation is giving the Alternate Compliance Program.
ACP is designed to recognize the work performed by class societies, and prevent duplication with the inspections that would otherwise be done by the Coast Guard. Under this program, class societies are given the ability to perform surveys on behalf of the Coast Guard. In the case of El Faro and many of the vessels under ACP, the class society is the American Bureau of Shipping.
ACP has been frequently questioned through the course of the MBI public hearing sessions. Prior testimony has shown issues with oversight, training, communication, and many other areas of this inspection protocol. All of that has been aired out- and more- during Tuesday’s testimony.

Coast Guard Chief of Traveling Inspectors Captain David Flaherty says he started an investigation of ACP in 2015, after his staff raised concerns about what was happening.
“Started to generally develop the opinion that there was some lack of understanding both from the surveyor who was representing the approved class society as well as the Coast Guard on the role and application and how an ACP exam is supposed to be conducted,” Flaherty says.
They looked at the program across the board, including inspections, audits, and more. The traveling inspectors found instances of marine inspectors and class society surveyors also not being aware of, or properly using, certain documentation designed to address any conflicts or gaps in the protocol, called the Supplement, and they were sometimes using a version that wasn’t approved. In 2016, they issued a report recommending changes, although many of those details weren’t discussed during the hearing session.
Flaherty says one of their biggest problems is communication between all of the parties involved.
“Clear communication between the vessel owner/operator, the approved class society, and the Coast Guard is key to the success of this program,” he says.
We’ve heard before that the Coast Guard and class society aren’t usually given the required 14 day notice from the ship’s owner about work on a vessel, so the Coast Guard is not always able to attend. The MBI asked whether there have been safety incidents where the class society didn’t notify the Coast Guard, and there had.
“We’ve also come across indications where the vessel owner/operator was not notifying either the Coast Guard or the approved class society of marine casualties,” he says.
Between the Coast Guard and class societies, there are breakdowns as well- including the class societies not being able to access the Coast Guard’s database of issues on various ships.
He specifically addressed what he called “concerning” comments from prior testimony by an ABS surveyor, who declined to perform a specific pressure test on a boiler component, following a repair. Per ABS guidelines, whether to perform the test is at the discretion of the surveyor. When asked why she didn’t perform the test, the surveyor said she was concerned there would be an unsafe situation because of the age of the boiler. Flaherty says, based on that, he doesn’t believe she understood the true purpose of the test, and that he’s had issues like this with ABS in the past.

In early 2016, traveling inspectors went aboard her sister ship, El Yunque, to do a document of compliance audit, and they found “extensive wastage” on a ventilation trunk as part of five non-conformities and four observations that were issued to TOTE. ABS was tasked to examine the other trunks, and cleared them, according to Flaherty. At an April drydock, when El Yunque was preparing to convert to the Alaskan trade, the Coast Guard found wastage in other vent trunks. The wastage uncovered at the different times were all determined to be long term, and one report from the drydock noted that there had been paint around it.
“In your opinion, the wastage and the deficiencies found in the exhaust and supply trunks in the El Yunque, were they longstanding extending beyond a full survey cycle, or inspection cycle for the vessel,” asked Board Chair Captain Jason Neubauer.
“In my opinion, yes,” Flaherty says.
Ultimately, the El Yunque is being scrapped instead of converted.
There were no inspection reports showing any wastage on El Faro, but investigators continued to push this line of questioning because Flaherty says the vent trunk can be a downflooding risk in the condition they were on El Yunque. We learned through Monday’s MBI testimony that it’s likely flooding started through an open scuttle, but then water continued to come in through the cargo ventilation system.
After Flaherty described El Faro’s owner and operator as organizations that weren’t active participants in the audit, but did communicate, TOTE’s attorneys brought back in prior testimony from other inspectors, who described them as a good company to work with who’s vessels were in good condition, considering their age. ABS also pushed back through questioning that showed Coast Guard inspectors were on board when the wastage was found in one trunk, but they didn’t look any further. Flaherty says that’s appropriate under ACP. ABS is also questioning whether wastage was seen on prior El Yunque or El Faro inspections, but that questioning will actually continue Wednesday morning, because the Board had to convene the hearing session for today when things ran late.
Neubauer directed extensive questioning toward any shortfalls in the Coast Guard’s role in ACP- investigators have made it clear from the beginning that they’re looking at all persons or agencies involved. Flaherty says they’ve been taking steps recently to focus more attention on older or more at risk ships, but they’re still facing resource, training, and notification issues.
“Since we’ve engaged over the past year or so, there were two vessels that were brought out of service. There’s a vessel in dry dock right now undergoing extensive modifications due to things that were discovered during the Alternate Compliance exam,” Flaherty says.
He says, especially with keeping up with the Supplement- the documentation that governs any gaps or overlaps in inspection guidelines- the increase in the number of class societies has made this a “burden”. There have also been a few cases where vessels are inspected frequently, but it takes the traveling inspectors getting involved for there to be change.
WOKV will continue to follow the MBI

Wastage on the vent trunks? What about the vent closures? What was the path from the sea to the cargo hold?

Read this guys twitter timeline he’s sitting there posing the hard questions they won’t ask out loud.

[QUOTE=Fraqrat;194983]Read this guys twitter timeline he’s sitting there posing the hard questions they won’t ask out loud.[/QUOTE]

Tweets can be found at:"Rod%20Sullivan"&src=typd

(along with some other people’s tweets)



By Stephanie Brown
Jacksonville, FL —
The way some of El Faro’s heavier cargo was secured was likely not satisfactory on her final voyage.
The Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation working the sinking of El Faro has heard prior testimony that the way cargo was lashed on the ship was more often driven by experience than guidelines. Now, we’re learning a calculation meant to determine how certain cargo should be stored was apparently not applied, and- along with other factors- it means it’s “probable” there was a cargo shift on board.

The National Cargo Bureau put together a report reviewing El Faro’s cargo securing manual and the loading on what would become her fatal voyage. They found some inconsistencies and some areas that were confusing, but overall, it falls in line with what they see in the industry.
“If the cargo had been secured in accordance with the cargo securing manual, it would have been considered properly secured,” says NCB Chief of the Technical Department Captain Phillip Anderson.

When checking the securing arrangement by containers, Anderson says they found many stacks to be non-compliant. At this time, he says they were advised the cargo was actually secured in accordance with a one page guideline called “EL minimum lashing requirements”, although Anderson says he doesn’t know who prepared that standard and who approved it- if it was approved at all. If those guidelines are accepted, only one stack was out of compliance.

With the second deck trailer cargo, there was a “significant” amount stored off-button, or without a connection to a fixed securing point that’s generally used for this cargo. According to Anderson, there needs to be a special calculation run in order to figure out how to store this cargo properly off-button, but there was no sign that was done, so NCB ran the numbers.
“We concluded that securing may have been satisfactory for most of the cargo if lashings were properly applied, but was not likely to be satisfactory for heavier pieces off-button,” Anderson says.
He believes that cargo ultimately became a problem on the final voyage.
“We believe that it is probable that there was a cargo shift. In the event of any cargo shift, a domino effect would be likely to result in progressive lashing failure as shifting cargo overloaded adjacent lashings as the vessel rolled,” Anderson says.

The NCB could not, however, make any determination on whether the probable shift contributed to the sinking, or resulted from it.
Further, NCB determined a “tendency towards lashing not being properly applied at times”, with TOTE’s own lashing manual showing improper configurations, in Anderson’s interpretation. He says the more concerning inconsistencies in his analysis deal with the securing points on cargo and the angle of the lashing.

When putting together this report, the NCB used only the information they were supplied with. Anderson says he intentionally stayed away from the Voyage Data Recorder transcript and prior MBI witness testimony, because he didn’t want to be influenced by anything other than the manuals and data. The transcript showed that the crew reported containers in the water and some cars bobbing in floodwater.

Anderson says he does not consider vessel speed, weight and other similar factors in his analysis.
Anderson’s testimony was cut short Wednesday because of the late time of day, but will continue on Thursday.

Lashing cargo in the right manner is essential for the ship’s safety and that of its crew. Under circumstances of for instance large accelerations caused by bad weather conditions the lashing are really put to the test. If a lashing is bad or has too much slack the continuous repetitive nature of a rolling ship can break the lashing which will put extra stress on the remaining lashings. This can cause a domino effect.

According to SOLAS Chapter VI, all ships except for pure bulk-carriers and tankers should be provided with a ship-specific cargo-securing manual. The manual is to be approved by the relevant authority of the country of registration and the cargo is to be secured in accordance with the instructions in the manual. The manual is to be prepared in accordance with the guidelines in MSC/Circ 745 and is to contain information regarding the accelerations which can affect the cargo on board and the strengths/dimensions of the means of cargo securing required to withstanding these accelerations.

Guidelines for Cargo Handling are also often part of the Owners quality system. These include instructions for both the securing of cargo on cargo transport units and the securing of cargo and cargo transport units on board a ship. All in all it is a sensitive and important subject and it is good that proper attention is paid to this in the present hearings.

If you use the hashtag key words [B]#elfaro[/B] on twitter with your search query you can see the comments made by several people. After you do the search click on the latest tab up on top.

Strange day in the hearings. Mrs. Davidson has been conspicuous by her absence since the start of this series, her attorney went off and tried to rip the British lashing blokes a new one for no apparent reason; a last-second switch to the senior CG board member for Mate Alejandro Barrios’ questioning whose hostile demeanor casts a pall on the proceeding. The mention of Capt. Axelrod’s testimony regarding his reasons for walking out gets tossed up like a loose basketball eliciting an immediate change of direction, a hurried conference with the principals and a premature end to the mate’s testimony. Everybody heads for the shadows, the plot thickens…

American Bureau of Shipping chief engineer lays out responsibilities during Day 4 of MBI
by: Lorena Inclan, Action News Jax Updated: Feb 9, 2017 - 10:38 PM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation entered day four in the third round of hearings into the sinking of El Faro with a clear focus of defining the roles of entities involved.
The attorney for the American Bureau of Shipping, Jerry White, started off the day by questioning a chief engineer with the American Bureau of Shipping, or ABS.

Tom Gruber is the chief engineer of statutes for ABS and acts as the liaison between the Coast Guard and ABS when there are statutory manners.
Gruber said ABS provides oversight to ensure compliance when it comes to vessel surveys but it does not make the codes.
Some of the testimony also contradicted previous testimony by Capt. David Flaherty regarding the cargo loading software program called “CargoMax,” which was used by El Faro.
“In our discussions with Capt. Flaherty yesterday, he indicated that CargoMax or computer programs are not reviewed or oversighted by the United States Coast Guard. Was that correct statement?” White asked.
“That was an incorrect statement,” Gruber said.

Gruber referred to two letters he received from the Marine Safety Center that prove otherwise.
However, Gruber did point to areas where regulations aren’t always up to date, including the inclining test which determines a ship’s loading capacity and it’s stability.
“Would using updated technology during the inclining test reduce the amount of uncertainty?” said MBI Chair Capt. Jason Neubauer.
“It could, yes,” Gruber said.
Gruber said he was confident in the job ABS does in order to ensure compliance.
“Is there any doubt as to the validity of the approvals for the inclining for El Faro for 1993 and 2006?” White asked.
“No, I stand by the approvals,” Gruber replied.
When it comes to the Trim and Stability Book, Gruber said they approve the book, but they don’t train the ship’s captain and crew on how to use it. He said that responsibility fails on the crew itself and the ship’s owner.
A surveyor with ABS will be called to testify during this Marine Board of Investigation.
The hearing reconvenes at 9 a.m. Friday at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.
© 2017 Cox Media Group.

TOTE: El Faro cargo report done in “factual vaccuum”

By Stephanie Brown
Jacksonville, FL —
TOTE Incorporated is fighting back against a National Cargo Bureau report which concluded it was “probable” El Faro’s cargo shifted on her fatal voyage because some of the heavier cargo was “likely” not secured in a satisfactory way.
“Despite the fact that this investigation in to the loss of El Faro has been underway for some 16 months now, you were not provided really much of any of the information that’s been collected regarding the loss, have you,” asked TOTE Incorporated Attorney Jeff King.
The NCB report was put together at the request of the NTSB and was presented during the Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation’s Wednesday hearing session, with testimony continuing in to Thursday. Captain Phil Anderson and Captain Edward Walker Jr. presented the findings, while giving the caveat that they did not review other factors beyond cargo, including ship speed.

Anderson says he didn’t want to review the ship’s Voyage Data Recorder transcript because he didn’t want to be influenced by any statements.
King questions accurate the report can be when that information- which he believes to be pertinent- was left out.
“So you would agree that you essentially developed your reports and came to your conclusions that you provided yesterday and today in a factual vacuum, based on the assumptions and some limited facts that were provided for you, is that correct,” King asked.
“Again I would not comment on existence or not of any factual vacuum. I believe our report speaks for itself in what we were reviewing and what we did review,” Anderson says.
King questioned whether Anderson and Walker were aware of the weather conditions during El Faro’s final voyage. Beyond knowing there were hurricane conditions, they were not. They also weren’t aware of details of the prior MBI witness testimony, including statements from former crew members and the man who oversaw cargo lashing on the final trip. They had also not seen the cargo or lashings, relying on the stowing arrangement and other information provided by the NTSB.
Pressed on his finding that it was “probable” some of El Faro’s cargo shifted on her final voyage, Anderson confirmed that they can’t definitively say if that happened, or if it would have influenced or resulted from the sinking.
“Let’s be very clear on this. You have no evidence whatsoever that there was in fact a domino effect involving a failure of lashings on the El Faro, correct?” asked King.
“That is correct,” responded Anderson.
King further questioned the assumptions used in some of NCB’s calculations, including the calculation used on non-standard, heavy cargo that led them to conclude it was “likely” that cargo was not sufficiently secured. The complex calculation considers a range of factors, including material strength, stowage location, lashing angles, and more. King took issue with the vessel speed that was factored in, because the range was between 19 and 24 knots, but King says indications through the VDR and other data is El Faro was around 19 knots or lower leading up to the sinking.
“Reading all these reports brought me back to school, so it was a great tutorial. But we’re here at an MBI to look at the actual events surrounding a loss on October 1, so wouldn’t you agree that the actual facts as they existed that day would be important to your testimony,” questioned King.
“I can’t address that, all I can go by is what we were asked to do,” said Anderson.
King also pushed back on the NCB report’s claim that TOTE had a “tendency” toward non-standard lashing schemes, because photos from lashing on El Faro’s sister ship and in TOTE’s own lashing manual show non-standard arrangements. King argued the strength of the chains that were used and other technical points, but the NCB reps continually circled back to their main focus- it was approved lashing per the ship’s Cargo Securing Manual.
El Faro’s cargo loading manual was approved, and Anderson says if the cargo were secured according to the manual, it would have been satisfactory. The VDR transcript shows various crew reports of a trailer tilting, cars floating, and containers in the water.
TOTE Incorporated is the parent company of TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico- El Faro’s owner- and TOTE Services- El Faro’s operator.