GMiller

NTSB releases transcript of El Faro sinking

Recommended Posts

 

Just read the transcript. One of the scarier tales of the sea I have ever come across. No Pan Pan, No Mayday, No one looked for survival suits until it was too late. Ships crew had no idea where to find lifejackets. Weather guys on board looked to the Weather Channel for updates (F*CK ME...ARE YOU KIDDING?).

 

This is a great example of terrible seamanship from beginning to end. I recommend the read for any of you that go to sea.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

sounds like the captain maintained his composure, even till the very end

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The last few pages------harrowing, terrifying........

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It looked like they were able to get hold 3 under control but an effect of that flooding was to cause cargo to let go and rupture a fire main which then started the flooding again at a greater rate. By the time they fortified it out it was too late.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

those interested may want to download the Meteorology Group Factual report - it's 160 pages and is a detailed examination of the weather information available to the ship.

 

I haven't read it all yet - i have only looked at what appear to be the most interesting parts.

 

It also contains a long discussion of the BVS weather visualization and routing software that is referred to many times in the transcript. Basically, it downloads and displays the GFS.., and also displays the NHC forecast tracks and intensities. Crucially.., the NHC forecast tracks and intensities are not obtained by the program directly from NHC, but are (i think) obtained through the software company. In this case, the forecast tracks and intensities available to the ship were about 6hrs older, when delivered to the ship, than those available from NHC at that time. It appears that with respect to the GFS, they had access to the forecasts at about the same time they were available from NOAA

 

However, even in real time the early NHC intensity and track forecasts had huge errors, so it's not clear how much difference this 6hr delay would have made to them - at least early on...

 

But, it is clear in the transcript that they were confused about the forecast intensities - and this may have been because on their BVS program, they were looking at intensity forecasts that were 6hrs older than what was being reported on, at the same time, by the media, which they were receiving by TV and radio. It's also possible that they were just looking at the GFS - which (like other global models) is not designed to forecast hurricane peak winds

 

I must say that on reading the transcript, i was shocked at the low level of meteorological knowledge exhibited by those on the bridge. They were steaming into a hurricane.., and they knew it.., but they don't even seem all that interested in really understanding what was going on...

 

The understanding of meteorology on the average offshore racing yacht is way ahead of what these guys are exhibiting.

 

unfortunately i have lost the link to the Meteorology Group Factual Report - but if you search you will find it..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On one level, it was scary how ill equipped they were to deal with the situation. And despite that, the courage they displayed was remarkable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In a way I didn't want to see the VDR recovered, because I knew it was going to be sad as hell to read.

 

And it was. Squared. That poor desperately scared AB. And all of them. It turned hopeless real fast, once they lost the plant, and couldn't defeat the water ingress.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

those interested may want to download the Meteorology Group Factual report - it's 160 pages and is a detailed examination of the weather information available to the ship.

 

I haven't read it all yet - i have only looked at what appear to be the most interesting parts.

 

It also contains a long discussion of the BVS weather visualization and routing software that is referred to many times in the transcript. Basically, it downloads and displays the GFS.., and also displays the NHC forecast tracks and intensities. Crucially.., the NHC forecast tracks and intensities are not obtained by the program directly from NHC, but are (i think) obtained through the software company. In this case, the forecast tracks and intensities available to the ship were about 6hrs older, when delivered to the ship, than those available from NHC at that time. It appears that with respect to the GFS, they had access to the forecasts at about the same time they were available from NOAA

 

However, even in real time the early NHC intensity and track forecasts had huge errors, so it's not clear how much difference this 6hr delay would have made to them - at least early on...

 

But, it is clear in the transcript that they were confused about the forecast intensities - and this may have been because on their BVS program, they were looking at intensity forecasts that were 6hrs older than what was being reported on, at the same time, by the media, which they were receiving by TV and radio. It's also possible that they were just looking at the GFS - which (like other global models) is not designed to forecast hurricane peak winds

 

I must say that on reading the transcript, i was shocked at the low level of meteorological knowledge exhibited by those on the bridge. They were steaming into a hurricane.., and they knew it.., but they don't even seem all that interested in really understanding what was going on...

 

The understanding of meteorology on the average offshore racing yacht is way ahead of what these guys are exhibiting.

 

unfortunately i have lost the link to the Meteorology Group Factual Report - but if you search you will find it..

 

 

Link:

 

http://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms/search/hitlist.cfm?sort=0&order=1&CurrentPage=1&EndRow=15&StartRow=1&docketID=58116&txtSearchT=Meteorology

 

AWT has some "splainin to do...

 

 

The understanding of meteorology on the average offshore racing yacht is way ahead of what these guys are exhibiting.

 

 

Will argue its about the same.

 

And brings up the deadly consequences of how automation can insidiously erode critical decision making...

 

m31589_crop7_1024x576_14430791997E17.jpg

 

Will say it again. The Sirens are alive and well and will still lead you to doom...

 

11.jpg

 

 

Nowadays they cloak themselves in this drag....

 

nav.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Captain while making terrible decisions and his lack of understanding what lay in the path of the El Faro did indeed display courage and stuck with the terrified AB until the very end. Condolences to the family and friends of the crew. Chilling read. Why shipping companies don't hire meteorologists that can be reached in real time with eyes on the situation from the outside is beyond me. The cost is small when compared to the fuel the ship will burn in just six hours let alone the cost of losing the crew, the cargo and a ship. There was more information here on SA than those poor guys had in terms of forecasting and storm intensities. Joaquin is now a hurricane...plan ahead.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its easy to second guess the Capt but reading the transcript he was getting conflicting info. But regardless of the info, if they had better flood monitoring they might have addressed the flooding sooner. If that scuttle had not failed they would have been fine. The flood triggered a cascade of events that resulted in the sinking.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its easy to second guess the Capt but reading the transcript he was getting conflicting info. But regardless of the info, if they had better flood monitoring they might have addressed the flooding sooner. If that scuttle had not failed they would have been fine. The flood triggered a cascade of events that resulted in the sinking.

 

But how do you explain no Mayday and no knowledge by the crew of where the lifejackets were stored?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Back when it happened I was puzzled that my ancient 6KSB has better access to weather information than these guys did :unsure::huh:

Seriously - for real not kidding a bit - if they had satellite internet and read the SA thread on that hurricane they would have been better off.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Back when it happened I was puzzled that my ancient 6KSB has better access to weather information than these guys did :unsure::huh:

Seriously - for real not kidding a bit - if they had satellite internet and read the SA thread on that hurricane they would have been better off.

 

Sad, but true.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are some parallels with the sinking of the MARINE ELECTRIC in a gale forty-plus years ago, off the Delaware Capes. 40-year old tanker converted to a bulk carrier, with seriously bad hatch covers, all but three died after she capsized in winter seas, at night:

 

https://www.uscg.mil/history/docs/casrep/1983marineelectric.pdf

 

It seemed to be human nature to want to believe that one's ship, in trouble in heavy seas and struggling with apparent hull or deck breaches, was not as close to foundering and capsizing as she really was. Hence the call to abandon ship comes so late that she rolled before they could abandon (true for ELECTRIC, and likely true with FARO).

 

Plus, who is eager to abandon a still-floating ship in favor of lifeboats or rafts, in likely non-survivable sea conditions? You may hope for too long that the ship will make it, somehow.

 

This brings it all back. Got to be just awful for the families, especially right before Christmas.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Back when it happened I was puzzled that my ancient 6KSB has better access to weather information than these guys did :unsure::huh:

Seriously - for real not kidding a bit - if they had satellite internet and read the SA thread on that hurricane they would have been better off.

 

Sad, but true.

 

 

 

They _did_ have satellite internet

 

as i mentioned above.., they had a Fleet Broadband (FBB) 250 - I have used exactly this unit navigating on race boats. It delivers a very fast (by offshore standards) internet connection.., and is entirely capable of web browsing and so on.

 

They easily could have used it to access the NOAA NHC website, and get the latest forecasts directly, rather than getting them through their BVS program. This is what they should have done when they were getting intensity and position forecasts that did not agree with each other.

 

So their problem was not an inability to access weather information.., it was a failure to adequately analyse the information they had.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

Back when it happened I was puzzled that my ancient 6KSB has better access to weather information than these guys did :unsure::huh:

Seriously - for real not kidding a bit - if they had satellite internet and read the SA thread on that hurricane they would have been better off.

 

Sad, but true.

 

 

 

They _did_ have satellite internet

 

as i mentioned above.., they had a Fleet Broadband (FBB) 250 - I have used exactly this unit navigating on race boats. It delivers a very fast (by offshore standards) internet connection.., and is entirely capable of web browsing and so on.

 

They easily could have used it to access the NOAA NHC website, and get the latest forecasts directly, rather than getting them through their BVS program. This is what they should have done when they were getting intensity and position forecasts that did not agree with each other.

 

So their problem was not an inability to access weather information.., it was a failure to adequately analyse the information they had.

 

 

The problem was...that NHC had the intensity and track wrong early. They continued to get the intensity wrong until day four. By that time the hurricane was in a rapid intensification mode and anyone close was screwed (El Faro). The slight retrograde of the track to the WSW didn't help either.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

 

Back when it happened I was puzzled that my ancient 6KSB has better access to weather information than these guys did :unsure::huh:

Seriously - for real not kidding a bit - if they had satellite internet and read the SA thread on that hurricane they would have been better off.

 

Sad, but true.

 

 

 

They _did_ have satellite internet

 

as i mentioned above.., they had a Fleet Broadband (FBB) 250 - I have used exactly this unit navigating on race boats. It delivers a very fast (by offshore standards) internet connection.., and is entirely capable of web browsing and so on.

 

They easily could have used it to access the NOAA NHC website, and get the latest forecasts directly, rather than getting them through their BVS program. This is what they should have done when they were getting intensity and position forecasts that did not agree with each other.

 

So their problem was not an inability to access weather information.., it was a failure to adequately analyse the information they had.

 

 

The problem was...that NHC had the intensity and track wrong early. They continued to get the intensity wrong until day four. By that time the hurricane was in a rapid intensification mode and anyone close was screwed (El Faro). The slight retrograde of the track to the WSW didn't help either.

 

 

yes - the early NOAA NHS forceasts of position and intensity were wrong - by more than they usually are

 

but, on board El Faro, it was worse than that - The NOAA NHS forecasts generally got better with time.., however (with one exception) the crew of El Faro were always viewing, in their BVS program, a forecast that was 6 hours older than what was available on the NOAA NHC website

 

This means that that they were not viewing the best available information about the forecast storm location and intensity - and because each new forecast _increased_ the forecast windspeeds for the storm.., the crew were always seeing forecasts that made the storm look weaker than the actual current forecast.

 

when you read the transcript, you see confusion over this - they were listening to radio and TV reports that had the latest forecasts - and those forecasts were always worse - had stronger wind - than what they were seeing in their BVS program. At one point, the BVS program, displaying an older NHC forecast, is saying that the max winds will be 43kts, when they have already heard a weather channel forecast of 70-80mph. That weather channel forecast is presumably based on the latest NHC forecast.., which is 6hrs newer than the one BVS is displaying.

 

it is at this point that someone should have gone directly to the NHC website.., to make sure they were looking at the best forecast.

 

also.., for what it's worth, it appears that the crew didn't understand the way that the BVS program handled automatic data updating, and they might not have known that there was a manual command that would make the program download the latest NHC forecast.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

2M 17:13:16.5 17:13:18.4 short lived. it's gunna be short lived.

CM 17:13:19.1 17:13:19.9 what is? CM 17:13:21.0 17:13:21.8 our experience?

2M 17:13:21.8 17:13:23.7 yeah. yeah. it's– it's gunna be quick.

 

ominous

 

Can somebody elaborate on the Captain asking HQ for permission to route further away (Old Bahama Channel). It sounds like he felt the need for approval to spend extra fuel, and a home office said no?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

They broadcast position before sounding abandon ship. They also activated their emergency distress system. Modern version of "Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's horrific.

 

"Man marks the Earth with ruin; his control stops at the shore."

-- Byron

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

2M 17:13:16.5 17:13:18.4 short lived. it's gunna be short lived.

CM 17:13:19.1 17:13:19.9 what is? CM 17:13:21.0 17:13:21.8 our experience?

2M 17:13:21.8 17:13:23.7 yeah. yeah. it's it's gunna be quick.

 

ominous

 

Can somebody elaborate on the Captain asking HQ for permission to route further away (Old Bahama Channel). It sounds like he felt the need for approval to spend extra fuel, and a home office said no?

Old Bahama Channel is between the Bahamas and Cuba. Distance wise, it's probably not too much further than Jax to PR via the eastern outside route. It does have pretty strong contrary current the whole way. In addition, there's a scarcity of harbors and not much sea-room. In hindsight, the captain would have been well clear of the storm via that route. OTOH they would have been fucked if the storm caught them.

Captain can take whatever course or precautions to ensure the ship's safety. However, communication with owners/operators probably isn't a bad thing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

They broadcast position before sounding abandon ship. They also activated their emergency distress system. Modern version of "Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!"

 

Does the emergency distress system reach all boaters or just USCG?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

They broadcast position before sounding abandon ship. They also activated their emergency distress system. Modern version of "Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!"

 

Does the emergency distress system reach all boaters or just USCG?

 

 

I am only aware of two distress alerts from El Faro:

 

1) Inmarsat - C (and SASS)

2) EPIRB 406mhz

 

neither are receivable by other boats

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So who else was out there close enough to help? El Yunque was over 100 miles away. You are getting lost in details that have nothing to do with the root cause of the sinking, the flooding.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the Captain thought he had seen it all before. At 4:10am:

 

"well this is every day in Alaska. this is what it's like."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So who else was out there close enough to help? El Yunque was over 100 miles away. You are getting lost in details that have nothing to do with the root cause of the sinking, the flooding.

 

I have a friend who was plucked out of the ocean in bad conditions by a US submarine in the area. We are talking Indian Ocean here. The conditions were no where near as bad as the El Faro but you never know what might be possible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

So who else was out there close enough to help? El Yunque was over 100 miles away. You are getting lost in details that have nothing to do with the root cause of the sinking, the flooding.

 

I have a friend who was plucked out of the ocean in bad conditions by a US submarine in the area. We are talking Indian Ocean here. The conditions were no where near as bad as the El Faro but you never know what might be possible.

 

 

 

It would have been hard to survive the wind driven spray in those conditions...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

2M 17:13:16.5 17:13:18.4 short lived. it's gunna be short lived.

CM 17:13:19.1 17:13:19.9 what is? CM 17:13:21.0 17:13:21.8 our experience?

2M 17:13:21.8 17:13:23.7 yeah. yeah. it's it's gunna be quick.

 

ominous

 

Can somebody elaborate on the Captain asking HQ for permission to route further away (Old Bahama Channel). It sounds like he felt the need for approval to spend extra fuel, and a home office said no?

Old Bahama Channel is between the Bahamas and Cuba. Distance wise, it's probably not too much further than Jax to PR via the eastern outside route. It does have pretty strong contrary current the whole way. In addition, there's a scarcity of harbors and not much sea-room. In hindsight, the captain would have been well clear of the storm via that route. OTOH they would have been fucked if the storm caught them.

Captain can take whatever course or precautions to ensure the ship's safety. However, communication with owners/operators probably isn't a bad thing.

 

 

 

First off, please see my mea culpa for the Zumwalt thread in your inbox upper right..

 

Capt. Davidson had taken the Old Bahama Channel to avoid a previous storm.

 

Why he didn't this time is a key factor in this tragedy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

CM 18:59:54.0 18:59:59.5 I hear what you're saying captain. I'm in line for the choppin' block...

CAPT 18:59:59.1 19:00:00.6 yeah. same here.

CM 19:00:00.0 19:00:01.8 ... I'm waitin' to get screwed.

CAPT 19:00:01.6 19:00:02.6 same here. CM 19:00:03.4 19:00:05.5 I don't know what's gunna happen to me.

section of lost recording

CM 19:00:09.2 19:00:11.9 stay until December first and * *.

CAPT 19:00:12.1 19:00:15.9 stay until December (third/thirty) like I said. and that's it. two par– two sentences.

CAPT 19:00:17.2 19:00:19.6 very nice. very polite. right to the point.

CAPT 19:00:20.8 19:00:22.2 plan on... CM 19:00:21.7 19:00:26.9 yeah I'm– I'm right behind ya. I think I'm November twenty-eight is seventy days. [The CAPT spoke a few unintelligible words while CM was speaking in this area.]

CAPT 19:00:28.3 19:00:33.2 next they're gunna come back– "well you know it's a long time for you to be out there– it's not safe."

CAPT 19:00:34.1 19:00:37.1 they have other vessels that are on four month contracts.

CM 19:00:37.2 19:00:56.0 yeah– well I hope that uh you that––they're just gunna say the opposite (to/for) me. "we– we want you to stay through– uh– to Alaska." make me work five months straight. I'll be– uh– I'll be a walkin' zombie. * * *.

 

and later

 

CAPT 19:10:38.0 19:10:49.8 my recommendation is simpler– simpler than uhh– explaining to an

unseasoned– (pending weather) * *

 

Sounds like he has the legal responsibility, but corporate desk skippers controlling his career think they know better. Unfortunately the CG failed to recover the full conversation.

 

Irregardless of what led him to his decisions, his final moments trying to help the terrified trapped AB were in the best traditions of the sea.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think at one point they wonder about a sailboat they see on the AIS. I wonder who that was?

Not like they would have been much help, I would guess the average yacht in that hurricane would have been at great risk to abandon whatever their storm strategy was and try and head over. Not sure what they could do anyway.

So who else was out there close enough to help? El Yunque was over 100 miles away. You are getting lost in details that have nothing to do with the root cause of the sinking, the flooding.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is the report in PDF or similar format that can be posted here? Each time I try to open the link I'm getting time out errors

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I think at one point they wonder about a sailboat they see on the AIS. I wonder who that was?

Not like they would have been much help, I would guess the average yacht in that hurricane would have been at great risk to abandon whatever their storm strategy was and try and head over. Not sure what they could do anyway.

So who else was out there close enough to help? El Yunque was over 100 miles away. You are getting lost in details that have nothing to do with the root cause of the sinking, the flooding.

 

 

i think the sailboat reference is about one of the crew who sails on a sailboat - and that's why he has a personal locator

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the Captain thought he had seen it all before. At 4:10am:

 

 

"well this is every day in Alaska. this is what it's like."

It read like a 'fearless leader' act the crew didn't quite believe. 'I've been in this stuff a hundred times before, were fine' kind of stuff. The seaman AB 2 sounded like this was new to him. He worried when he realized his unsecured tv wouldn't survive in the cabin, even if he put it on the floor. A more experienced sailor talked about packing a cup with socks so it wouldn't break.

 

The captain also used positive language when talking to engineering on the intercom until it was certain the engines couldn't be restarted. I presumed this was to keep his listening crew calm. He has a rattled seaman sit down at one point (his chair?). As much as you can tell by printed words, I think the captain was demonstrating leadership. Clearly he was cut from a different cloth than Captain Schettino of the Costa Concordia.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

So who else was out there close enough to help? El Yunque was over 100 miles away. You are getting lost in details that have nothing to do with the root cause of the sinking, the flooding.

 

I have a friend who was plucked out of the ocean in bad conditions by a US submarine in the area. We are talking Indian Ocean here. The conditions were no where near as bad as the El Faro but you never know what might be possible.

 

 

 

It would have been hard to survive the wind driven spray in those conditions...

 

 

The foam on the surface in those kinds of winds can be a foot or more thick. Talk about torture and waterboarding. It would be horrible to die that way. Sucking in thick salty foam with every breath...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I think the Captain thought he had seen it all before. At 4:10am:

 

"well this is every day in Alaska. this is what it's like."

It read like a 'fearless leader' act the crew didn't quite believe. 'I've been in this stuff a hundred times before, were fine' kind of stuff. The seaman AB 2 sounded like this was new to him. He worried when he realized his unsecured tv wouldn't survive in the cabin, even if he put it on the floor. A more experienced sailor talked about packing a cup with socks so it wouldn't break.

 

The captain also used positive language when talking to engineering on the intercom until it was certain the engines couldn't be restarted. I presumed this was to keep his listening crew calm. He has a rattled seaman sit down at one point (his chair?). As much as you can tell by printed words, I think the captain was demonstrating leadership. Clearly he was cut from a different cloth than Captain Schettino of the Costa Concordia.

 

 

i think this statement about alaska is not about past experience, but is a reference to the future

 

the el faro, and some of the crew were going to be transferred to alaska - i believe the captain expected to be going with the boat

 

so what he was saying to the crew was more like " well this is (what it will be like) every day in alaska"

 

he may have worked in alaska before too though.., i don't know about that

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

2M 17:13:16.5 17:13:18.4 short lived. it's gunna be short lived.

CM 17:13:19.1 17:13:19.9 what is? CM 17:13:21.0 17:13:21.8 our experience?

2M 17:13:21.8 17:13:23.7 yeah. yeah. it's it's gunna be quick.

 

ominous

 

Can somebody elaborate on the Captain asking HQ for permission to route further away (Old Bahama Channel). It sounds like he felt the need for approval to spend extra fuel, and a home office said no?

Old Bahama Channel is between the Bahamas and Cuba. Distance wise, it's probably not too much further than Jax to PR via the eastern outside route. It does have pretty strong contrary current the whole way. In addition, there's a scarcity of harbors and not much sea-room. In hindsight, the captain would have been well clear of the storm via that route. OTOH they would have been fucked if the storm caught them.

Captain can take whatever course or precautions to ensure the ship's safety. However, communication with owners/operators probably isn't a bad thing.

 

First off, please see my mea culpa for the Zumwalt thread in your inbox upper right..

 

Capt. Davidson had taken the Old Bahama Channel to avoid a previous storm.

 

Why he didn't this time is a key factor in this tragedy.

No prob. It's not like it's a well known fact.

IDK why the El Faro captain didn't take the OBC if he was familiar with it. I suspect he underestimated the storm, and overestimated his ship...just like the Bounty.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

 

So who else was out there close enough to help? El Yunque was over 100 miles away. You are getting lost in details that have nothing to do with the root cause of the sinking, the flooding.

I have a friend who was plucked out of the ocean in bad conditions by a US submarine in the area. We are talking Indian Ocean here. The conditions were no where near as bad as the El Faro but you never know what might be possible.

 

It would have been hard to survive the wind driven spray in those conditions...

The foam on the surface in those kinds of winds can be a foot or more thick. Talk about torture and waterboarding. It would be horrible to die that way. Sucking in thick salty foam with every breath...

Crew may have been crushed by the containers coming loose. The lifeboat that was recovered was badly damaged...doubtful a liferaft or floating crew would have survived. Their best chance would have been to avoid the storm from the get-go.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

According to GCaptain, Capt Davidson worked many years on tankers out of Valdez, AK.

 

Not wholly pertinent, but interesting flexing of a 300m container ship in rough weather. Starts around the 3:30 min mark:

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A terrible read, my heart broke when I read that the guy asked if he could go and get his glasses. Such a small thing in such a big mess.

 

I hope this leads to better routines and security, so something good comes out of this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

it seems like the crew identified two sources of water entering the boat:

 

1) something called a "scuttle" apparently opened and let water into "hold 3".

 

I gather a scuttle is some kind of cargo hold cover, but don't have any idea of what it would look like on this ship. From the discussion, it may have been closed when they left port, but not "dogged down" with the screw mechanism. does anyone have a picture of a scuttle? How big would it be on this boat? there seems to be some discussion of whether it is open on deck 2 or deck 3, or maybe they are just talking about where they can actually see the water - are there scuttles on different decks?

 

2) a "fire main" broke

 

i am guessing this is part of a fire suppression system, and that it is supposed to take ocean water and pump it on a fire. I think they speculate that moving cargo might have broken it open - they talk about cars floating in one of the holds.. I guess this system is always pressurized...?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A "scuttle" is a small hatch set into a deck that usually (but not always) does not have a ladder for ease of access. It's not meant as a primary access. (at least this is my navy experience)

 

On navy ships I've been on, the firemain is a seawater-fed system, pressurized by a pump. I'm not sure how a rupture of an unpressurized fire main contributed to the flooding on El Faro. It may have been fed or pressurized differently than I'm used to.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The firemain may have been charged because of the vehicles on that deck having fuel in them. That means that the fire pump was running continuously so if a main let go they would have no way of knowing that water was actually flowing. This goes back to flooding alarms, I did not see any mention of them in the transcripts. A scuttle is personnel access to a hold. They were able to secure it so it sounds like it was either left open or not dogged down.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What Ajax said. IDK if the fire main is constantly pressurized...if not, it's possible that siphon action was letting in water.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A "quick-acting" scuttle might look like this:

 

https://www.google.com/search?q=photo+of+a+scuttle+on+a+ship&biw=1280&bih=890&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiHlNPHx_bQAhUH2mMKHX44BHMQ7AkINQ#tbm=isch&q=quick+acting+scuttle

 

May or may not be a passage for humans. One old-school meaning is something that can be opened in order to scuttle a ship, meaning sink her by downflooding or piercing the hull.

 

 

Earlier on, the crew talked about being "on the back" of the storm, presumably the safer westerly side, and were encouraged by slightly rising millibars. But they ended up heading almost directly into the eye, or just east/northeast of it, the worst possible spot.

 

Man, it's sad. Some lessons learned still to come, but the main one is and always has been apparent-- don't count on cutting close to a hurricane, a slight change in *anything*, be it ship or storm, can finish you. FARO had both happen. I can't praise Captain Davidson's course and speed decisions, but he was stoic and compassionate to the end.

 

But God, what an awful read in those last few pages.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

Back when it happened I was puzzled that my ancient 6KSB has better access to weather information than these guys did :unsure::huh:

Seriously - for real not kidding a bit - if they had satellite internet and read the SA thread on that hurricane they would have been better off.

Sad, but true.

 

They _did_ have satellite internet

 

as i mentioned above.., they had a Fleet Broadband (FBB) 250 - I have used exactly this unit navigating on race boats. It delivers a very fast (by offshore standards) internet connection.., and is entirely capable of web browsing and so on.

 

They easily could have used it to access the NOAA NHC website, and get the latest forecasts directly, rather than getting them through their BVS program. This is what they should have done when they were getting intensity and position forecasts that did not agree with each other.

 

So their problem was not an inability to access weather information.., it was a failure to adequately analyse the information they had.

While fleet broadband may be capable of Web browsing, it apparently wasn't allowed per the contract with tote. See page 89 of the meteo report

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

 

Back when it happened I was puzzled that my ancient 6KSB has better access to weather information than these guys did :unsure::huh:

Seriously - for real not kidding a bit - if they had satellite internet and read the SA thread on that hurricane they would have been better off.

 

Sad, but true.

 

They _did_ have satellite internet

 

as i mentioned above.., they had a Fleet Broadband (FBB) 250 - I have used exactly this unit navigating on race boats. It delivers a very fast (by offshore standards) internet connection.., and is entirely capable of web browsing and so on.

 

They easily could have used it to access the NOAA NHC website, and get the latest forecasts directly, rather than getting them through their BVS program. This is what they should have done when they were getting intensity and position forecasts that did not agree with each other.

 

So their problem was not an inability to access weather information.., it was a failure to adequately analyse the information they had.

While fleet broadband may be capable of Web browsing, it apparently wasn't allowed per the contract with tote. See page 89 of the meteo report

Shit, That saved the owner a few dollars. Smart accounting there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It sounded like no one was sure how to shut off the fire main :unsure:

Does it have below the waterline runs so that just not having the pump on - which odds are high is centrifugal and thus flow-through - wouldn't stop it leaking?

This reminds me of a hurricane we tangled with, shit just starts breaking that you normally don't worry about. Minor for us, but if had kept up another day it might not have been.

Is there any kind of flow meter or pump-on warning or any easy way to know if it is on and pumping water? Seems the hold was flooded from 2 sources, which made it hard to just look in there and see what was the issue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

 

Back when it happened I was puzzled that my ancient 6KSB has better access to weather information than these guys did :unsure::huh:

Seriously - for real not kidding a bit - if they had satellite internet and read the SA thread on that hurricane they would have been better off.

Sad, but true.

 

They _did_ have satellite internet

 

as i mentioned above.., they had a Fleet Broadband (FBB) 250 - I have used exactly this unit navigating on race boats. It delivers a very fast (by offshore standards) internet connection.., and is entirely capable of web browsing and so on.

 

They easily could have used it to access the NOAA NHC website, and get the latest forecasts directly, rather than getting them through their BVS program. This is what they should have done when they were getting intensity and position forecasts that did not agree with each other.

 

So their problem was not an inability to access weather information.., it was a failure to adequately analyse the information they had.

While fleet broadband may be capable of Web browsing, it apparently wasn't allowed per the contract with tote. See page 89 of the meteo report

 

 

well, that's unfortunate...

 

still, they had up to date location and intensity forecasts coming over Inmarsat-C.

 

Also, as i said above somewhere, there was a manual command in their BVS program to update the NHC position/intensity forecasts to the latest available.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It sounded like no one was sure how to shut off the fire main :unsure:

Does it have below the waterline runs so that just not having the pump on - which odds are high is centrifugal and thus flow-through - wouldn't stop it leaking?

This reminds me of a hurricane we tangled with, shit just starts breaking that you normally don't worry about. Minor for us, but if had kept up another day it might not have been.

Is there any kind of flow meter or pump-on warning or any easy way to know if it is on and pumping water? Seems the hold was flooded from 2 sources, which made it hard to just look in there and see what was the issue.

I'm imagining the fire main as a through hull and several inch pipe that penetrates all compartments. It is pressurized in emergency. If it was pressurized at all times a loss of pressure should have been detected? It was likely ruptured by floating moving cargo or the ship working, The result was leak they could not locate and may have been unable to access with watertight compartments closed and significant water already in then ship, Somebody recommmended not opening one door at least due to flooding, Detection was delayed because they were working through an obvious leak from the skuttle and thought they understood the water. They were also distracted because the engine couldn't operate due to listing. How much angle? They had an extra engineer and non English speaking contract labor (pipe fitters but not seamen) that did not prove helpful during the three emergencies or were not utilized. When they identified the leak they were unable to stop it presumably because they couldn't access a through hull. We only have one side of that conversation and no schematic, Loss of stability caused a slow death roll to become a sudden capsize. Death rolls are deceptive since they are slow and gentle, The sea was neither, so evacuation was delayed too long, By then everything was literally breaking loose, Am I correctly applying small boat logic?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

They broadcast position before sounding abandon ship. They also activated their emergency distress system. Modern version of "Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!"

 

Does the emergency distress system reach all boaters or just USCG?

 

 

I am only aware of two distress alerts from El Faro:

 

1) Inmarsat - C (and SASS)

2) EPIRB 406mhz

 

neither are receivable by other boats

 

 

with respect to the distress signals.., it's worth noting that the EPIRB on board EL Faro was not a GPIRB - it did not contain a GPS, and did not transmit a location. So while the alert was received, it was an unlocated alert. The EPIRB transmitted for ~25 minutes, and over that time it was not possible for the operational part of the SAR SAT system to locate the alert, because of the satellite geometry. Therefore, the USCG never received a location that was derived from the EPIRB.

 

They did however get a location from the Inmarsat-C and the SASS alerts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In practical terms, how would an earlier distress call with correct position, say 15 minutes after they lost the plant, have saved anyone? No one could have gotten to them in those conditions, nor in time to have changed the sad outcome.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The superstructure was also found half a mile away. Only four containers remained with the hull. I'm imagining it capsizing, dumping, and filling like a toy boat after the top fell off. The machinery weight low would still give the hull a tendency to right as it plunged to the bottom, especially with the deck cargo gone.

post-120910-0-25240700-1481825517_thumb.jpg

post-120910-0-28423700-1481825742_thumb.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A "scuttle" is a small hatch set into a deck that usually (but not always) does not have a ladder for ease of access. It's not meant as a primary access. (at least this is my navy experience)

 

On navy ships I've been on, the firemain is a seawater-fed system, pressurized by a pump. I'm not sure how a rupture of an unpressurized fire main contributed to the flooding on El Faro. It may have been fed or pressurized differently than I'm used to.

 

Ya, but the boats you were on were made to sink. :P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In practical terms, how would an earlier distress call with correct position, say 15 minutes after they lost the plant, have saved anyone? No one could have gotten to them in those conditions, nor in time to have changed the sad outcome.

 

the EPIRB was activated _after_ the Inmarsat and SASS alerts.., so even if the EPIRB had been a GPIRB, the location would not have been received earlier than the distress locations that were received by USCG from the other devices

 

I just thought it was interesting that the ship didn't have a GPIRB

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most ship's fire mains from that vintage are simple pumps with little instrumentation other than discharge and maybe vacuum gauges. Often they leave a wash down valve in the fwd hawse open to permit continuous operation. If a line broke before that discharge point, (like in the hold), there would be no difference in the gauge readings at all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm pretty sure the EPIRBs on commercial vessels are required to break free and self activate if the vessel sinks. I doubt that a Mayday over VHF would have accomplished anything. The alerts they did send seemed somewhat vague...kind of a "we're in trouble" but not a definitive "Mayday". Then again, I don't think they realized just how much trouble they were really in until the last few minutes, and by then they were looking for life jackets and survival suits.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A pressurized fire main is not out of the ordinary, having one main rupture probably would not indicate a large pressure drop either.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

RKoch, The Master was very specific when he directed the second mate to broadcast the distress. It was his last resort before sounding abandon ship. If you saw We Were Solders it would be on par with the Broken Arrow call...We need help and we need it now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most ship's fire mains from that vintage are simple pumps with little instrumentation other than discharge and maybe vacuum gauges. Often they leave a wash down valve in the fwd hawse open to permit continuous operation. If a line broke before that discharge point, (like in the hold), there would be no difference in the gauge readings at all.

Thanks Veeger.

 

Rkoch is right. In such weather even going on deck and trying to get in a tethered raft in the gale would have seemed suicidal. If it was sinking they could have watched the progress and had a timeframe. Stability is scary. Things seem slow and controlled until they aren't. There was a wind list as well, further dampening the roll.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Am I correct that the skipper left the bridge at 8PM and didn't come back from his cabin until 4:10 AM? After he was called from the bridged he took over an hour to arrive on the bridge? That doesn't sound like 'watching the storm closely' as was claimed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Am I correct that the skipper left the bridge at 8PM and didn't come back from his cabin until 4:10 AM? After he was called from the bridged he took over an hour to arrive on the bridge? That doesn't sound like 'watching the storm closely' as was claimed.

 

I think that was true, though he did also promise cm to look at or discuss cargo lashings with somebody, He may have walked the ship, etc, prior to turning in. It appears he was slow to return to the bridge prior to 0410, possibly a failing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IMHO I would have MUCH rather been on my own boat!

Not that it would have been fun - :o

They were utterly fucked because water was coming in from places they had no access to and no easy way to fix. The ship had no real viable way to get off of it in that weather and when she finally went there had to be a nightmare of falling containers and equipment to dodge :(

 

A typical sailboat is VASTLY more stable. My own boat is stable out to maybe 125 degrees and big ships are more like 45 to 60 degrees mostly IIRC. Barring catastrophic damage like the keel coming off the boat is likely to be upright and even a lot of water in a boat with 50 percent ballast the stability won't be that horrible. Note the many "yuppie 911" calls where the USCG takes people off boats that wash up someplace later on :rolleyes:

If you have to get off, starting just a few feet above sea level and not having containers falling on your heard gives you at least a chance. Not that it would have been easy in any way, but at least a chance.

 

It sounded like no one was sure how to shut off the fire main :unsure:
Does it have below the waterline runs so that just not having the pump on - which odds are high is centrifugal and thus flow-through - wouldn't stop it leaking?
This reminds me of a hurricane we tangled with, shit just starts breaking that you normally don't worry about. Minor for us, but if had kept up another day it might not have been.
Is there any kind of flow meter or pump-on warning or any easy way to know if it is on and pumping water? Seems the hold was flooded from 2 sources, which made it hard to just look in there and see what was the issue.

I'm imagining the fire main as a through hull and several inch pipe that penetrates all compartments. It is pressurized in emergency. If it was pressurized at all times a loss of pressure should have been detected? It was likely ruptured by floating moving cargo or the ship working, The result was leak they could not locate and may have been unable to access with watertight compartments closed and significant water already in then ship, Somebody recommmended not opening one door at least due to flooding, Detection was delayed because they were working through an obvious leak from the skuttle and thought they understood the water. They were also distracted because the engine couldn't operate due to listing. How much angle? They had an extra engineer and non English speaking contract labor (pipe fitters but not seamen) that did not prove helpful during the three emergencies or were not utilized. When they identified the leak they were unable to stop it presumably because they couldn't access a through hull. We only have one side of that conversation and no schematic, Loss of stability caused a slow death roll to become a sudden capsize. Death rolls are deceptive since they are slow and gentle, The sea was neither, so evacuation was delayed too long, By then everything was literally breaking loose, Am I correctly applying small boat logic?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Am I correct that the skipper left the bridge at 8PM and didn't come back from his cabin until 4:10 AM? After he was called from the bridged he took over an hour to arrive on the bridge? That doesn't sound like 'watching the storm closely' as was claimed.

I think that was true, though he did also promise cm to look at or discuss cargo lashings with somebody, He may have walked the ship, etc, prior to turning in. It appears he was slow to return to the bridge prior to 0410, possibly a failing.

 

 

if you read the interviews.., one of them is with the mother of the 2nd mate

 

in it she says that her daughter - the 2nd mate - said to her that this captain spent too much time in his cabin, and not enough time on the bridge.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

Am I correct that the skipper left the bridge at 8PM and didn't come back from his cabin until 4:10 AM? After he was called from the bridged he took over an hour to arrive on the bridge? That doesn't sound like 'watching the storm closely' as was claimed.

I think that was true, though he did also promise cm to look at or discuss cargo lashings with somebody, He may have walked the ship, etc, prior to turning in. It appears he was slow to return to the bridge prior to 0410, possibly a failing.

if you read the interviews.., one of them is with the mother of the 2nd mate

 

in it she says that her daughter - the 2nd mate - said to her that this captain spent too much time in his cabin, and not enough time on the bridge.

Kind of makes you wonder how much the ship's status deteriorated (rising water in hold, cargo in hold shifting) while the captain was in his cabin from 8pm - 4 am, and why he didn't issue orders to monitor it and keep him updated. Kind of seems like they were surprised to find the situation below as bad as it was. It was pretty late in the game before the captain even asked for down flooding info.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

 

Am I correct that the skipper left the bridge at 8PM and didn't come back from his cabin until 4:10 AM? After he was called from the bridged he took over an hour to arrive on the bridge? That doesn't sound like 'watching the storm closely' as was claimed.

I think that was true, though he did also promise cm to look at or discuss cargo lashings with somebody, He may have walked the ship, etc, prior to turning in. It appears he was slow to return to the bridge prior to 0410, possibly a failing.

if you read the interviews.., one of them is with the mother of the 2nd mate

 

in it she says that her daughter - the 2nd mate - said to her that this captain spent too much time in his cabin, and not enough time on the bridge.

Kind of makes you wonder how much the ship's status deteriorated (rising water in hold, cargo in hold shifting) while the captain was in his cabin from 8pm - 4 am, and why he didn't issue orders to monitor it and keep him updated. Kind of seems like they were surprised to find the situation below as bad as it was. It was pretty late in the game before the captain even asked for down flooding info.
Note to self, if I ever find myself a ship's captain: Standing Order no 1: Wake me up if the ship is flooding.

(Currently my bunk is about a foot above the bilge, so I think I'll figure it out without posting the order. I also trust my girlfriend to make me aware in dramatic fashion, possibly by stepping on me as she bails out. :) )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So at 23:13 the day before they sank, while the captain was in his cabin, the 3rd mate who was on watch gave him a call after the latest weather info came in, and told the captain that the el faro would be only 22 miles from the eye at it's closest CPA, with 100+ knot winds. the 3M suggested altering course to the south to avoid, but the captain said not to worry. From his cabin. Didn't even bother coming up to the bridge. WTF.

 

page 269 of the VDR factual report.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A buddy of mine totally refabbed an old Chinese Junk. It was a major effort and that made him even more want to prove it a blue water cruiser. He had little offshore (none actually) and took on a total greenhorn as crew when he left New Orleans bound for the Caribbean. The second night out in the Gulf the boat was taking on some water probably through hull planking seams above the resting waterline that had dried out and now were underwater as the boat heeled. The submersible bilge pumps had the leaking well under control and he had rigged a huge crash pump to the engine that would have kept them afloat under all but dire circumstances.

 

He left the newbie at the helm to go below and get some sleep with the instructions to flip on the diaphram 12 volt pump every half hour to keep the submersible pumps from cycling so often and to wake him up if the flooding seemed to increase. About the third hour the skipper rolled over in his sleep and his arm slipped off the edge of the bunk. He awoke with his hand on the cabin sole in a few inches of water! He stormed up topside to find his watchkeeper asleep at the wheel and he had apparently turned off the submersible pumps with the diaphram pump at the electric panel on his first and only scheduled pumping of the bilge.

 

For the rest of that trip the hapless crew was given his bunkspace ON the floorboards to act as a failsafe high water alarm. Skipper admitted that he gleefully let the bilge fill a time or two just to watch the reaction from his crew.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes.

Did the El Faro? I'd be surprised. This was a 40 year old shit bucket held together with baling wire and only allowed to sail because it was grandfathered into US regs and given waivers because it was a Jones Act boat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes.

Hmmm, you'd think they'd have been on top of the water ingress situation sooner then.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I skimmed through the transcript my biggest question was about the alarms. Why they didn't seem to have situational awareness--both weather and bilges?

Note: being "Jones Act" is not the problem. All U.S. vessels are "Jones Act" ... and our newbuild vessels meet equivalent or more stringent standards than most vessels around the world.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My experience on the big grey boats is that the firemain is always pressurized because, other than for fighting fires, the water may be used for other purposes including: flushing heads, cooling refrigeration units, oil coolers, bilge eductors (pumps) and other places where a reliable supply of seawater is needed. It runs the entire length of the ship. It is always pressurized.

 

I was on a ship once where a seal on the discharge side of a firemain pump failed. The ship was in harbor and a roundsman noticed something was up when he returned from his hourly visit to the engine room and his boots were wet. That was the bilge alarm at the time.

 

Shutting off the pump(s) that supply the firemain is something very basic to learn and should involve nothing more than switching them off (shutting the inlet and outlet valves would be a secondary concern). I would think the firemain pump controls would be where the main engine controls are located. In the event of a fire all pumps are turned on. The fact that no one seemed to know how to turn off the pumps *right away* is a bit worrisome (but now I am just speculating as I wasn't there).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites