Why the gcaptain forum sometimes gets it wrong

Whenever I did have a opportunity to see the popular tv news on a “real” maritime incident the media didn’t have a clue what questions to ask, nor, evidently, who to ask. Total rubbish was generally the result of their report.
Any more, I go straight to 'G Capt." to learn anything and this is what the public should or is doing.
Doing so will put you leagues ahead of whatever bilge is rolling in the mass media.

I know someone that worked the vessel and most of what i have read about the incident doesn’t jive with his story. From what i am told it was a BRM-Office problem quite simple. The Mate should have recognized what was happening but thats another story.

That is what I did when the El Faro incident happened. I looked for a professional opinion and found gcaptain forum. I have been a nuisance (to some) on here ever since.

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That’s the ideal. In practice it depends upon what actual expertise members have and if it relevant or not.

In thinking about past threads I think there is a natural tendency for each of us to put more weight on our own experience than is justified.

The Fennica grounding near Dutch Harbor is an example.

The Alaskan trawlerman who commented said it was ridiculous to think the charts were at fault because everyone knows that patch where the Fennica grounded is shallow and to be avoided.

Other posters with Alaskan experience said it was a well known fact that in Alaska it’s standard practice to avoid unfamiliar waters without local knowledge because of possibility of charting errors.

Some forum members with no Alaskan experience thought the idea that charts should not necessarily be trusted was preposterous.

Each of us was using our own experience and discounting the experience of others.

As previously mentioned I discount information and opinions expressed by anyone untill I can determine their biases.

One of the problems with the forum is the difficulty determining the personal information (experience, education, nationality, etc) that is necessary to determine bias and perspective of any individual poster. To find the bias I often have to run specific post by people of known bias (sometimes this is done for us simply by a frequent poster responding to these posts).

On the other hand a wide range of bias and perspectives often leads to new channels of thought.


I would also contend that the gCaptain forum is good at solving puzzles but ineffective at solving mysteries.


The only problem I have with providing personal information is what happens with a lot of people on other social media sites where employers have ammunition to take action against employees.

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True and this might be another reason we are able to tease out better predictions. Specifically because we can contact individual posters directly, ask questions and promise to keep background information private.

Here is the article from the ADN NTSB investigates whether ship tried a shortcut course

How could they make a mistake of this magnitude?" Lethcoe asked. Instead of assuming Cousins made a huge mistake, he said, it is easier to believe he was trying to navigate the tanker through the old steamship passage and made a minor error that put the vessel aground.

I remember explaining the “error chain” to my brother who is in quality control for a large pharmaceutical company… he went all Sigma 6 Black Belt in me… apparently “they were fucking morons who made bad judgement calls” doesn’t work in his industry. I got emailed a 150 slide power point… He went into how shipboard failure goes all the way back the training facilities and their training certification. The training facilities are at fault not the people who were fucking morons… I fault idiots not the school that they went to as many people th course and had positive outcomes… I’m just a deck ape not a white collar scientist


Just send Mr. Pharmaceutical


A person aware that there is in fact a question is about 95% there.

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This is one of the reasons I don’t hide where I’m coming from when I post on accident or hot topics.

I was post pretty heavily on topics concerning the US Navy, but I don’t hide the fact that I’m in the Navy myself. Thus, anything I say is colored by that experience and bias(though I was pretty critical of both major accidents).

If I recall correctly EV was in the fairway outbound when ice was spotted in the fairway by the female 2/O who ordered the helmsman to change course … which was done. The Master was not informed. And then they forgot to change back to the correct course in the fairway. 30 minutes later they hit the reef. Typical human error!
How do I know? I was a delegate to the IMO at the time and someone from the US delegation told me!

That is not correct. Gregory Cousins was the 3M OICNW at the time of the grounding. Hazelwood ordered the Ice avoidance course change before going below, and instructions on when to turn back.

The only debate is “exactly” why they didn’t come back on course, and whether Hazlewood should have stayed on the bridge until they were clear and standing out to Sea.
The fact that the choice is so obvious; is now only possible with the benefit of hindsight. And only AFTER the grounding did the Pilots start staying onboard beyond BR. It was not a very complicated maneuver the Watch was tasked with completing.

“There but for the Grace of God go I”

I was told there were two officers and the helmsman on the bridge leading up to the grounding. Hazelwood had retired to his cabin. So a course change was ordered to avoid ice in the fairway. And after the ice was passed another course change should have been done to return to the fairway … but what was done is unclear. The ship headed for the rocks. I was told the helmsman was old, blind and deaf and it may have contributed? Or the two officers were chatting about something? Anyway, what pisses me off is that they blamed the Master to be sole responsible and that the ship owner escaped. Sad.

Amen. I had the same thing happen after giving a helmsman directions to take a crossing ship’s stern and then resume his course. When I came back up, he had failed to resume the course. We were way off course but it’s a good thing we were in open water.


What you are stating is correct, but if we are discussing these incidents for purposes of breaking the error chain you must go back further than that.

  1. The wire never parted, it was a “mystery shackle” provided by the client.
  2. It wasn’t so much the HP of the Tow Vessel that caused “fiddle stringing” as much as the mass of the Tow Vessel. It can’t fall back and give like a smaller vessel. The Aiviq is something like 11,000 GT
  3. Why didn’t they alleviate the tension/shock-loads by paying out or reducing power.? While I cannot know for certain they were probably very near bare steerageway, and the short string was mandated by the unconventional near-coastal shallow water route, mandated by the Client.

Everybody involved from the CG, ECO, Crowley etc. made damn near heroic efforts in very challenging conditions (50’ plus seas, 80kts plus winds at times, that is a sea state nearly double those which sunk the El-Faro) to prevent the grounding. The Aiviq recovered the Tow something like 3 times. In addition the Alert, Nanuq, Guardsman, and USCGC Alex Haley either hooked up or attempted to hook up to the Kulluk and NOBODY could wrangle it in.

Think about it, after the whole deal was done at the end of the day it was a transportation incident NOT a drilling one. NO lives were lost, NO serious injuries, NO Ecological impact, and Shell ponied up for the cost of it. It’s damn near a miracle. A month before a Barge AND Tug went aground very near the same spot.

All this information is in the public report.

The only thing that could have prevented it ultimately, as in every case was the Master of the Aiviq, and his only real option was to stay tied up to the dock. As someone who understands all too well the commercial pressure Present-day Masters are under, once again:
“There but for the Grace if God go I”

I personally feel that the honest and earnest study and discussion of these maritime incidents, and their REAL
causes is our only defense against them happening again. I for one am truly grateful for the platform of Gcaptain and ALL it’s forum members. Even if the discussion or theories don’t fit a particular incident exactly, it may for a situation someone is faced with in the future and could very well save lives or an ecosystem.

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And he was pissed.

This forum brings a lot of valuable experience and insight to problems. That’s obvious.

What’s not obvious is that in some cases experience that seems applicable may in fact mislead.

An example is in post #4. The day after the EV went around the big question was what happened? At the time it seemed almost beyond belief.

What are the chances the cause (at the time) of the grounding was a string of errors that are unknown and only an investigation will uncover? That answer would be the best bet. Close to 100% chance that’s right.

Take a professional mariner armed with general knowledge, charts, tide tables, weather conditions, ship handling experience, local knowledge and so forth but with no specific information. What are the chances he will be able to come up with a single specific scenario that’s correct? It’d be a bad bet.

Lethcoe was an experienced mariner with local knowledge. So he knew about the old steamship passage. This information led him down the wrong road.

How could they make a mistake of this magnitude?" Lethcoe asked. Instead of assuming Cousins made a huge mistake, he said, it is easier to believe he was trying to navigate the tanker through the old steamship passage and made a minor error that put the vessel aground.

In hindsight, that’s nuts, but at the time it seemed plausible. A person with no knowledge of ships or navigation could have done better just by looking at the causes of past tanker groundings by percentage.

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