Why can't we speculate about ship incidents?

Every single time a ship collides with something gCaptain’s inboxes fill with a myriad of identical emails asking the same question:

Why can’t ygCaptain just let the investigators do their job and stop speculating?

My list of reasons why we don’t stop increases every time I sit down and think hard about the questions… but I want to hear from you guys??

What’s wrong with speculating about incidents in the news?


P.S. I’ll wait before posting my views on the subject because I want to encourage opposing views but I will offer one fact as evidence for my side: gCaptain has never once had an investigator call to say that we are hindering an investigation… but we’ve gotten many calls from investigations saying we (i.e. YOU guys on this forum) uncovered facts or theories that helped the investigators uncover evidence.

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Accidents merit discussion so that they may be avoided in the future. The courts/investigations will handle the legal side, but professional bodies can and should discuss. Why not? These are forums, where people discuss issues. Courts and investigations are not infallible, and sometimes wrong.

Many people are uncomfortable with this due to bias, fear of inconvenient truths, antiquated or just plain false notions about truth/honor/justice, and some folks just suffer anxiety from speculation and want an authority to figure out things for them.

PS I just want to say that right now the public’s view of the accident from the media reports they’ve read is absolutely bonkers. gCaptain articles and forums are currently the only sane voices I have heard discussing the situation.


Many of those who make this statement are the same people who categorically believe that; “the Crystal run on autopilot with nobody on the bridge”.
Apparently the idea that merchant ships are always doing this are Navy people, past or present, or just “Navy sympathizers” with no knowledge of the subject.
Could it be that, in this case, the view is coloured by the fact that the merchant vessel was “foreign” and manned by Filipinos?

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Simple here for just a moment. Because it could be me. I’ve seen plenty of maritime and non-maritime incidents that involved well trained, motivated, and qualified people involved. There are times that the primary issue is a gap in knowledge. But there are enough that are not to cause me to take a long look in the mirror after reading one of these newest events.

My personal opinion based on reading over multitudes of maritime collisions and other navigation incidents (you know, like running aground) is that there are a significant number that have fatigue and distraction as a continuing cause. I have no hard data to back up my thoughts, so feel free to disagree.

There are times that the person just does not have the skills, knowledge, or competency as well. However, how many of you have those same two items (fatigue and distraction) at least partially in your mind when talking about a collision between a container ship and destroyer?

It could be procedural faults or point to serious faults at the heart and mindset of an organization as well.

But looking at a mix of the above concerns, why do I want to discuss incidents before all of the investigations are completed, well, back to simple. I read the news and want to know what I can do to make sure it does not happen to me or to any I interact with on a professional level.

When an airliner goes down every news channels had their rotating panel of expert ex pilots and ex FAA investigators hypothesizing non stop for weeks. El Faro reminded us all that there is not a deep well of experts for maritime related incidents. There were few “experts” and if there was one they hadn’t spent much time at sea since cadet summer cruise.

Once a good reporter finds out about this site I imagine they read and pull “source” info from the real time threads. We should discuss these things here because we are never asked to be experts for the various news networks. This is in large part due to the fact most people just don’t understand what we do on the water. The average person prolly still assumes we are motley collection of perverts, malcontents and excons and no wonder we crash ships and blow up rigs or get drunk and have oil spills.


Then you have the statements like Ombugge made.

As a former USN member I think NOTHING like he posted. I worked in CIC for 17years and did plenty of Sea and Anchor details and tracked many a contacts. The one thought we always kept in mind though is other ships can not turn as fast, speed up or slow down as fast as us. Hell, even a carrier can turn faster than most Costal freighters.

There is more to the story that just hasn’t been released. A simple crossing or overtaking situation is not the case I’m thinking for some reason. USN could have been doing exercises, which is not an excuse, but let it ride out.

To tell the truth what comes out is not really what happened. Case in point… When the USS Eisenhower hit and anchored vessel coming into Norfolk back in 1988 the report stated CIC only undated the bridge one time the contact was CBDR. That is not true in fact. The bridge had visual and saw it was anchored and told CIC to cease reporting, which they did. Only problem was CIC DID NOT LOG the bridge told them to do so and it came out as CIC only reported it one time to the bridge. If you read the report it appears as CIC just forgot about it after one report and was incompetent. Even the OOD maked a statement that yes, I told CIC to cease reporting. However, it was not logged and during the investigation that meant that it didn’t happen. Sometimes you just have to take things with a grain of salt and read between the lines.

Not only the OOD can call the Cap’n if they see something screwed up. Folks who haven’t served and worked in that area just don’t know. That radar guy, OS’s, will let the watch officer know who would advise the TAO something is wrong and the bridge is not acting IAW the CO standing orders. The TAO has that direct link to the CO just as much as the OOD. Matter of fact the TAO has more say so than the OOD when it comes to the safety of the ship and not just in Combat.

Nothing other than causing a few butt hurts among the sycophants who come out of the void spaces to defend the indefensible. Speculation by a collective few thousand years of experience and observation might just verify the accuracy of “crowd sourcing” as a means to analyze this kind of incident.

For what it’s worth, there was no shortage of people here to defend the WSF driver who in broad daylight ignored bridge crew advice and violated COLREGS to collide with a stand on vessel so it’s not like merchant mariners are necessarily without bias either.

If we could depend on them doing the job we think they are charged with doing, without bias, without pressure from inside or outside forces them maybe we could but history has proven that any agency that investigates itself or includes a captured agency in an investigation cannot (or will not) produce an objective result.

I didn’t post the question to the USS Fitzgerald thread because I’m not just talking about this incident (although we did recieve more emails than usual asking us to back off) but we also get the question when the only ships involved are mechany ships.

You ask a good about Filipinos and, yes, America has a long history of racism against them (http://amzn.to/2uegt79) and I’m sure some Americans are racially biased here but personally I find them to be excellent mariners. And any talk of a language barrier between these two vessels is complete nonsense because Filipinos who work at sea speak excellent English.


I know for fact that investigators have found value in the discussions of incidents on this forum and elsewhere and reach out on occasion requesting permission to contact members for assistance and/or more info into certain topics (we don’t provide any personal or contact details without permission from user). El Faro investigation is just one example. I spoke to lead investigator personally and he thanked us for the valuable information being shared on the forums. He said no better place than here to gain insight from real mariners.


My personal experiences would lead me to strongly disagree with a blanket statement such as this. I’ve worked with far too many non-native English speakers in my measly decade at sea to feel that this is the case. To be fair, I’ve worked with many where the language barrier was minimal or non-existent, but I’d say that my experience has been about 50/50. For sure, their English is better than my Tagalog (or Arabic, or Akan, or Greek), but I also work on a US flagged ship with a predominantly American crew.

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Disagree. I found the idea ludicrous when it was first floated, and said so in myriad discussions, and I’m ex-Navy, and support the Navy insofar as they deserve it. (Said because the Fitz definitely dropped the ball in this case). I think a better statement would be ‘People that aren’t Mariners seem to believe this.’ I can’t imagine any professional Mariner of any service believing it.

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I find myself agreeing with everything you say here.

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As far as gCaptain the website is concerned:

“News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising.” - William Randolph Hearst

This isn’t intended as a defense of Hearst, who was a scumbag; but gCaptain is performing to the expectation of the press in the US, doing exactly what the press ought to be doing.

Hearst has some more encouragement for you.

“Don’t be afraid to make a mistake; your readers might like it.” - also William Randolph Hearst

As far as the forum is concerned, my first thought was that I’d like to see anyone try to stop the public at large from speculating, but unfortunately I have seen that happen in other discussions. Controlling online sentiment is a billion dollar business today. Governments and businesses alike pay big money to influence online discussions through a number of sophisticated and unsophisticated methods. Forum moderators and members have to be on guard against it.

Here is a pretty good post about some of the techniques, even if it is from a source that many would consider questionable. http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/08/the-15-rules-of-internet-disinformation.html

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@27182 Very interesting, thank you!

Why not? The notion of freedom of speech and the press covers this. Speculation is natural. The internet provides an opportunity for people to “get together” to discuss and speculate. Here or in the local bar.
Our speculation will have no adverse affect on any investigation. Will it have a positive effect? In most cases no I would doubt it. Occasionally it might.
The problem with most speculation, is its is currently based on virtually no information. With pure guesswork filling in the gaps. Some is quite interesting and informed general description of how the watch is kept on a navy vessel. Much of it is little more than BS.

An actual investigation is different. It has to be approached with an open mind. No preconceived ideas.
Certainly standard questions need to be asked and answered

Speculate away.

I thinks so too.
You’ll never convince anyone that 300 or so USN ships makes as many “transits”, or port calls as several thousand merchant ships.

As to number of accidents involving USN vs. the world’s merchant fleet there are undeniable statistics available, but it would be an unfair comparison.
You are right, you better don’t dig deeper into that subject if you want to maintain your faith in the USN.

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It is a matter of who is doing the speculating, I suppose. When you have a forum like this, where professionals (supposedly HAR!) are discussing an incident it provides such wonderful “outside the fish bowl” type perspective. When you have the press involved, and they are the ones speculating, it is completely about click numbers or etc. Again, free press is good! But I got an eye opener when the Deepwater Horizon incident happened. I had absolutely no idea how far a periodical is willing to go off track for a little sensationalism. (I was naive, shoot me). Internal investigations are so fraught with politics and fear that it’s hardly worth noting the results (in my experience). So, this forum? Very good thing! Press? Gonna get it wrong (or spun wrong) every time. Internal speculation? Not even worth the time.

No, not zero. And one incident is one too many. It helps to have a mindset beginning there, so you work harder at finding the cause as well as the fix.

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Assuming 10000 transits and, say, 10 incidents per year (which we know it’s not) that = .1%. So, like I said…nearly zero. I agree with the rest of your statement, however.

Is there a difference between a post on thread on a discussion. Or an editorial?

For those of us who just pass through browsing topics. We add a thought or two of speculation. some of which may be provocative or challenged by another reader.
An editorial on the other hand? Is portraying itself up as the opinion of the publication. New programme or internet sight. In any case its a bigger soap box.

I’ve just read another Editorial. What conclusions did I come to?

Ex Army guys have a grudge against the Navy, Just like the rest of us. He is not impressed with the Merchant Marine either. Nothing more to add. Except stating how clever he is as an expert. “Big Deal” aren’t we all X spurts. Restating the unsubstantiated BS we have already heard about a ship on auto with nobody on the bridge and the Navy guys are just incompetent.

WTH. Might as well stir up another Hornets nest.

Might I suggest. While an editorial is just opinion. The basis for forming the opinion should be some kind of actual reference or evidence.