Will the El Faro Cause a Rethink of BRM/MRM* Training?

It certainly should.

According to the NTSB’s report on the loss of the El Faro there was a massive, almost inconceivable failure of the captain and crew to have a shared picture of the situation.

Are the various schools and training facilities going to be able to maintain the underlying attitude that a ship’s captain is not to be questioned while pretending to teach the team approach?

If this is what BRM/MRM is:

Teamwork is a critical element of BRM. Training in BRM encourages junior officers to put forth their opinions and, when safety is of concern, to challenge their superior officers. Senior officers are, in turn, trained to be open to gathering feedback from the bridge team. Another important element for a properly functioning bridge team is maintaining situation awareness, which can be defined as “comprehension or understanding of a dynamic environment.

Why do so many mariners who have had the training consider it to be nonsense?

*Maritime Resource Management (MRM) with additional target groups - such as engineers and shore-based personnel

This idea was dismissed near the end the Commandant’s final action memo.

After the CG published their final report el faro family members were asked to submit their reccomendations and ongoing concerns to the Commandant directly.

A few of the family reached out to me directly and seeded a few of my concerns within their own. This was one of them.

Unfortunately ADM. Zumwalt only copied and pasted snippets of those letters and, in doing so, declawed them and presented them out of context.

Very frustrating!!

But to answer your question… yes MRM is the next logical step and is very much needed.

That said I’m not sure that building MRM atop of the faulty structure of BRM.

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This is from the NTSB report:

With recurrent training, all officers would have a unified understanding of expectations with regard to effective communication, assertiveness, and working as a well-organized and competent team.

This is not true. There is a belief that if a person has graduated from a prestigious maritime academy and gotten 20 years as experience as deep-sea master than they are qualified to teach these resource management courses.

All they are doing is reinforcing existing beliefs.

Even if the training was effective many mariners will not accept it. I recently had long discussion about CRM with an Airbus pilot. He told me that some airlines do not believe that attitudes can changed with training. Instead airlines screen for both technical skill and the ability to work as a team. Applicants who lack technical skills or the ability to work as a team are rejected.



The NTSB is calling it a failure of BRM, they seem to be taking a broad view of what that means.

Either way a lot of the human factors core concepts are the same. Seems like a lot of overlap between BRM / MRM and leadership and management.

A comprehensive course should cover how to correct or question a superior without appearing insubordinate.

This is from the NTSB report:

Teamwork is a critical element of BRM. Training in BRM encourages junior officers to put forth their opinions and, when safety is of concern, to challenge their superior officers. Senior officers are, in turn, trained to be open to gathering feedback from the bridge team.

I know you’re being serous but sir, if I may be permitted to speak freely and without disrespect perceived as I intend only the deepest respect towards you as I am unworthy to voice such an opinion, teaching the underlings how to grovel at the feet of their masters sends exactly the wrong message. It is the moments when when a junior must contradict a senior that such gobbledygook gets in the way. When something must be said it should be said.


I grew up in the same town as a now famous con man turned FBI agent but back then nobody had heard of him. A teacher in high school had know this guys and assigned his book to the class. It was very good and many years later Steven Speilberg made a movie of the book with the same name… Catch Me If You Can

Most have seen the movie which explains how bought a Pan Am pilot uniform and forged an ID card that allowed him to fly around the world and book hotels for free l. He also used the uniform to cash bogus checks.

The pilot part is interesting and contains good lessons on remaining calm and speaking irders with confidence and so forth. But the next two stages of his life were more interesting.

When the FBI got hot on his trail he forged a diploma from Harvard Law studied a few week and passed the bar exam becoming a district attorney which tipped him off when the FBI showed up again.

This time he escaped and forged a Harvard Medical School diploma and a medical licsense. He went to a big hospital looking for a job but was told the only openening was for head cardiac surgeon.

This is where it gets really interesting because, not only did he get the job but he perfromed many surgeries and, to top it all off, he had the lowest fatality rate in the hospital and won a major award (which got the FBI back on his trail)

The second half of the booknis about the horrible prison conditions he faces once he got caught in France but I want to stop in the operating room.

How does someone, without any medical knoweldge and no medical training who never picked up a scalpel quickly become the best heart doctor in the stare??

And, trust me, this book is 100% true.


The answer to that question has been the single most powerful tool I’ve used in real life BRM and emergency situations.
P.S. they don’t reveal the secret in the movie… it’s only in the book.

Hey DeckApe, thanks for pointing out that my message is not clear. Perhaps I should have said teach subordinates the importance of speaking up while avoiding mitigated speech

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Fake it till ya make it!

No. That’s how you kill people :wink:

This is from the report:

The concept of mitigated speech is common in a hierarchical system, such as on the bridge of a ship. If a member of the bridge team disagrees with the captain and takes action to defy or challenge his or her authority, that is considered insubordination, which could result in disciplinary action.

Creating an environment in which all members of the navigation bridge team can freely discuss issues and be comfortable challenging each other’s actions, especially in the face of imminent danger, is a core BRM concept.

In my experience as mate it becomes obvious right away which captains welcome input and which ones are easily offended.

Even with captain who does not take advice well it’s helpful to know how to ramp up an assertive message.

Here is from an article about flight AF 447

What Lauber found was a culture dominated by authoritarian captains, many of them crusty old reactionaries who brooked no interference from their subordinates. In those cockpits, co-pilots were lucky if occasionally they were allowed to fly. Lauber told me about one occasion, when he entered a Boeing 727 cockpit at a gate before the captain arrived, and the flight engineer said, “I suppose you’ve been in a cockpit before.”

“Well, yes.”

“But you may not be aware that I’m the captain’s sexual adviser.”

“Well, no, I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah, because whenever I speak up, he says, ‘If I want your fucking advice, I’ll ask for it.’ ”

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Most tasks in even “skilled professions” are not that complicated when following well established procedures, with one big caveat…this is ASSUMING nothing abnormal is occurring.

Closer but no cigar.

One of his tricks was studying the most common mistakes made during surgery and not making those but, plenty abnormal stuff happen and he still got the patients through it.

The key to answering this riddle is to realize this is a thread about BRM and there are a lot of people in and around a hospital operating room.

“Empower” the staff to do most of the work. Step in only when needed.

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Yes that’s the basic theory but the book goes jnto a lot more detail and he would watch his team like a hawk.

First he’d get a medical student to give a report on the surgery ahead… kinda like a voyage plan… and he would encorage everyone on the team to pepper that student with questions. He could tell the holes in the plan by looki g at the teams reaction and the questions they asked.

If something was really tricky he’s call in a specialist to do that part of the procedure (like boarding a pilot).

He was a but if a ladies man and made sure he had the best nurses on his crew. During surgery he’d get the students and PA’s to do the cutting but he’d stand back an watch the faces of the nurses. A nurse will rarely (even today) speak up to correct a docter (or even a med student) but they have experience and they (like all humans) give off lits of body language. He told his students to work slow and as one hovered over the place to cut he’s look at the nurses. If one was grimacing he knew it was wrong and would pause the procedure.

When he Pauses thenproceedure he never called out mistakes he’d make the students talk about the problem.

If shit really started going wrong dast he’d just step back and let the ehad nurse handle it (which is common proceedure).

He also realized that all doctors went to kintergarden yet they all write (or did back then) in illegible scribble. The reason be surmised was jt was all just an act to get out of doing paperwork.

His scribble was the worst around :wink:

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Title of book?

Catch Me If You Can

We had some (not all, many where real nice) real peice of work toolpushers on the drillships. Real alpha dog assholes who were impossible to deal with.

I had a trick that worked every time. I would play Beta dog all the time. Always making sure I disn’t do anything that could be perceived as a challenge. They’d usually throw me a bone when they could but, every so often they’d say no just to be a jerk. And they almost always say no when you are desperate… at that point most people just start begging but,once you do that, the best he’ll do is meet you half way.

What I’d do is get the guy in a room, close the door and tell him to “sit the fuck down” and listen. I’d physically block the exit if I had to but I wouldn’t say a word untill he sat. Then, looking him straight in the eye - I’d state my case. If he hemmed and hawed I’d say “I’m not asking you to do this, I’m telling you!” Then I’d just stare him down.

The response was always the same. He’d say “I’ll give you what you want, but if you pull this shit again, I’ll hunt you down” or whatever other nonsense he came up with.

The trick is, the second he gives you the yes, sit down, look away smile and say yes sir. Go immediately back to being the beta.

What your doing is making it crystal clear that you don’t want to be an alpha dog but if he doesn’t take care of important needs you WILL challenge him.

The other critical thing is not to tell anyone. People use information to get bones from these assholes so no secret is safe… and if your behavoir becomes public he will look lkke an asshole (which will anger him).

I’ve done this a few dozen times (one guy required a biweekly “session”) but it never failed me. The real strange thing is, once the door opened back up (and I said “thank you sir”) he’d treat me like his new best friend. I could do no wrong after that and, while he himself would still withhold bones just to screw with me (and everyone else), his crew would be put on strict orders to get me anything I need.

P.S. Yeah, I know, it’s not easy (and certainly not “fun”) to pull out this trick but, if you have to work with a hothead you only have two options: fix him or quit. I always walked in ready to be fired.
P.S.2 These guys can smell fear and they may threaten to hit you (or give off strong body signals to this effect). It’s almost impossibl not to be scared if you’ve never been hit before. Your best option for not folding under intimidation is to take a few boxing lessons. It doesn’t matter if you learn o figut or not… what does matter is getting getting your bell rung a few times. Once you’ve taken a few hits in the ring the fear of getting hit at work will drop away.


We had a potentially dangerous engineering casualty on a ship I just signed off of. We made the right phone call, did not freak out and got the Chief down there out of bed and we had everything straight in a few minutes. Not surprisingly, the bridge did not inform the Capt right away. Very disconcerting. Things must change. Get the old man out of the sack, that’s what he or she is getting paid big money for.

A sea change must happen. It must happen in that void between the ears first.

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In my experience this is common. It’s a well known problem the stovepipe.

A stovepipe organization has a structure which largely or entirely restricts the flow of information within the organisation to up-down through lines of control, inhibiting or preventing cross-organisational communication.

It seems like a problem with the bridge watch but if it’s not surprising that it happend maybe the chief shouldn’t have trusted that path. He could have told the bridge to call the captain.