USS Fitzgerald Collision: NTSB Investigation Report Highlights Navy Failures,

What’s shitty, the friendly fire almost sunk her.

But damn few willing to listen to that offer. How often does a merchant vessel receive a reply to a call about passing arrangements? More often it is silence or a snide order to keep out of the way.

The Navy has earned its miserable reputation

That report appears to be treated in the same manner as a radio call from a merchant ship, an inconvenience imposed on the Gods by mere mortals.


Johns report/analysis was on point. Some may or may not accept it, but in my small world, he put it together in a way that most could understand if they had a lick of common sense, which has been debated on this site to no avail. I don’t always agree with John, nor he with me. Fine with that. Navy fucked up, end of story.John nailed it. I don’t think he loses any sleep over people disagreeiing with him, just stupid people he shakes his head at. Particularly maritime reporters who have never sailed.

I vehemently disagree with this; no one seriously thought that a collision where seven sailors died was going to be forgotten in a week. What I do understand is that you’re a journalist, and you feel a rush to print a big story, like any other reporter. You also need to set your story apart from all the others, and that means sometimes you need to be salacious.

You’re right that there is a cultural divide. The Navy isn’t like working for Bob’s Shipping Company, where you can quit and go sail for Joe’s Towing. It’s a culture, it’s a lifestyle. And while it may be dysfunctional at times, it’s still a family. And when that family is pulling together in shock and grief, here comes a smarmy outsider heckling it. Small wonder no Navy people came here to read your copy of the investigation.

Honestly though, this is all academic at this point. I don’t think the bell can be unrung and I don’t think you have any desire to do so (which is fine of course). If as you say your audience takes you seriously that’s great, but whatever chance you had to impact the largest maritime organization in the country was probably lost for at least a generation. Don’t worry though; I’m an outsider here, and completely prepared to have my opinions discounted accordingly. :wink:

I didn’t read it as heckling, rather constructive criticism pointing out errors made that prudent mariners from any country in the world would be wise not to repeat.

The largest maritime organization in the country is not capable of regulating themselves obviously, as these collisions happen so often as to be nationally embarrassing. When professional investigators outside the cocoon of the US Navy offer suggestions they are ignored. There is on the bridge of most merchant ships in international trade more seagoing experience per man than on the average Navy ship.
I don’t think John is naive enough to think the insular leadership of the US Navy would change because of his writing. After all, the US Navy learned to sail from the US Navy by US Navy rules. The fact that the rest of the world goes by international rules accepted thru international agreement is something they know little of and care even less.


There have been several posts here about steps the Navy was taking to improve SWO training.

This one for example, most people here couldn’t get past the post title.

Read that some time ago. MITAGS is MSC . The study did not state the level of experience of the MSC mariners they observed nor did they send US Navy personnel to MITAGS with the same experience as the MSC mariners to compare results. They also sure as hell didn’t compare either with professional mariners from any country involved with international trade on a daily basis.

So your point is?

The study is flawed

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The only thing I can say to that, is that if the mate on watch doesn’t have anybody to confer with and they are in doubt, they are supposed to call the Captain. Do they always? Obviously not.

Also, most of the unlicensed are much more experienced than the fresh out of school mates, and maybe they say something to the mate like “you probably should call the old man.” I have always respected my watch partners and took their position with a grain of salt, but if a guy who’s been sailing for 30 years doesn’t like the way something looks, maybe I shouldn’t like it either.


I agree, but as you said I’ve learned that just writing “call the master” in the night orders doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Which is why in traffic I’d watch the 3rd mate on INavX from my room/office.

The captain of the Fitgerald also had written in his night order to call for small CPAs but those orders were disregarded by the watch.

Another reason why the 12-4 is usually the more experienced 2/m.

Also, I always sort of took the CPAs with a grain of salt. But there was usually a line in there about doubt, and if I was in doubt I always called.

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This is true, the second mate can usually be trusted not only to make the call if necessary but also most likely can handle alone.

But I’m familiar with that area and a lot of mates don’t have much experience in traffic, in particular crossing those coast-wise traffic lanes. Sometimes the gaps in traffic are not very large.

If I have a mate that’s never done it I explain how it’s done. Find the appropriate gap using ARPA relative vectors, then head for that gap by making a good course change to stbd to show the ship you plan to cut behind your red light. Then making sure you’re always showing that ship your red, keep coming left and cut through their wake (not literally, but it will be close astern). Let the give-way ships going the other way take care of themselves.

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There was no study, the 30% is just a statistic.

One thing I never did, however trivial the case, was bust the junior mates ass for calling me if he was in doubt. I woke up more than a few captains and mates in my day. That did not represent failure, either than lack of experience in close quarters and me trying to contact people to stay the fuck away from me. They did the same, damn proud of them. For the most part, I slept well with the mates on board and on watch. One should be so lucky.

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It has not been a week, it’s been three years! Which, btw, is a ridiculously long time for an investigation like this.

And what do you vehemently disagree with? The fact that people have lost interest?

Navy people aren’t going to navy websites to read copy of the investigation either. Naval institute and navy times’ social media numbers on this investigation report are way down too. Nobody cares.

In an effort to make sure we’re not talking past each other, my complaint was the tone and timing of your original article, “The USS Fitzgerald is at Fault. This is Why.” In your response you said “Nobody cares a year or two later. It doesn’t matter if I get it :100: right, what matters is that we get good relevant information out so people can discuss the incident intelligently before everyone looses interest.”. No one was talking about reporting on the investigation, which had barely begun when your article was published. I disagreed with the notion that people would have lost interest in a week.

As to the investigation, there are probably a lot of factors at play. The biggest being that Navy already performed an investigation (which was flawed, for a variety of reasons) but most of the facts have been known for some time. There aren’t any major revelations in the NTSB report that haven’t been already discussed ad nauseam in naval circles. What were their numbers on this report?

it takes over 3 years for a port stb to see who is at fault…clearly the investigation is being done by the ones at fault?

I think we are going to have to disagree with timing. gCaptian was created 15 years ago out of a recognition that the media’s influence was growing and their coverage of maritime issues was getting worse. I can not wait a week to publish because the large media conglomerates do not… they start spreading inaccurate information while the bodies are still warm and congress increasingly acts upon those reports rather than waiting for the official ones. Like it or not (for me it’s NOT) speed matters.

Yes, my tone certainly could have been better and I do apologize for being curt and insensitive. There is an underlying sentiment of anger and resentment in all US Mariners that is difficult to suppress and, unlike naval officers, we do not get any training in politics or personal refinement. What we do get it is a constant stream of signals for US Naval officers telling us we are unimportant.

For example “The Navy isn’t like working for Bob’s Shipping Company, where you can quit and go sail for Joe’s Towing.” makes me feel angry and misunderstood. While it is true that we can switch employers we can not escape the harsh realities of life at sea. We can not escape IMO and USCG manning law and competitive market pressures that force us to stand a watch alone on the bridge at 02:00 after already working a full day.

“It’s a culture, it’s a lifestyle. And while it may be dysfunctional at times, it’s still a family. And when that family is pulling together in shock and grief, here comes a smarmy outsider heckling it.”

We are a family too. We have a culture and lifesyste. The US Merchant Marine is a much smaller family, poorer family, and way more dysfunctional but most of our officers attended academies, wore uniforms, and have a deep love for our country. And we consider you guys cousins. Rich cousins who wear fancy clothes and live in $8B houses (USS Zumwalt).

The problem is that while we can be harsh, and say hurtful things, and roll our eyes the vast majority of us do LOVE, you guys, and WILL will have your back in the next fight. But you guys have disowned us, and your lack of support in Congress is at the very root of our relative poverty. The US Merchant Marine is dying because we have no support in Congress and Navy leadership continues to distance themselves from us.

We are Uncle Eddie in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. We are driving the rusted out RV that smells like sewage. We are ugly, uncouth, and politically incorrect BUT we love you. And I’d like to think that you guys are Clark Griswold but your not… Clark Griswold is not a fan of Eddie but he does (if reluctantly) invite him to Christmas dinner and is thankful when Eddie tries in his own F’d up way to help. You guys don’t invite us to shit. You are never thankful.

What is the opposite of Love? It’s not hate. It’s not resentment. Many dysfunctional families with deep love and of each other fight. No, It’s apathy. It’s totally not caring. Apathy is the opposite of love.

Here’s the SECNAV’s official statement to congress after the incident:

If you look at the study that I have asked to be stood up,
we are addressing the overall root causes of what’s going on.
*The CNO is looking at tactical causes. We are going to be *
*looking at root causes. We’ve asked people from BP [British *
*Petroleum] North America to join us. They lived through the *
*Deepwater Horizon tragedy and came out the other side with a *
*very strong plan. We called the Maritime Academy and said, *
*Who is your poster child for maritime safety who's had an * *issue?'' They said, Speak to Crowley Marine. They had a bit *
*of a rash. They have a great program now, called Road to *
Zero.’’ Called Tom Crowley. He said, ``You’re on it.’’

The secnav put together a panel of the best minds in the US Merchant Marine and everyone who was called stood up to help. Then the uniformed leadership shrugged off the findings.

And it’s not just this time but EVERYTIME. When the USS Bonhomme Richard caught fire the edison Chouest tugboat immediately called on the VHF to come in and help but where rebuffed numerous times in favor of tiny police boats.

And what frankly pisses me off the most is we know how you feel. We are a very small community and our world was rocked when the El Faro sank. Every US Merchant Mariner I know reached out to their naval buddies and offered to help. How many naval officers offered to help us after the El Faro Sank? How many naval officers attended our hearings? And not only did you not help your family actively obstructed the investigation. The last words of our family members where on a black box in the bottom of the ocean but you refused to let us recover it with commercial assets while you dragged your feet insisting that a USN salvage vessel recovers it. Same for the Deepwater Horizon. You guys refused to help. And don’t tell me it’s because we are commecrial mariners because when a commercial airline crashes in the middle of nowhere you guys send teams of people to help.

The bottom line is we love you guys. You don’t love us. If I surveyed every naval officer I doubt if 1 in ten would even recognize the name “El Faro”.

I do appologize for my tone. None of this is an excuse for my behavior… just an explination of why it’s difficult to write in a detached and unemotional manner when it comes to US Naval incidents.


That statement alone represents the major reason the Navy is held in such contempt by many of us. In my eyes the navy is like a great many fishermen, they just happen to work on a boat but they are not mariners. The navee is nothing more than a modern iteration of the Gilbert and Sullivan farce.