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Federal Charges Look Likely RE: Conception Fire


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8 hours ago, Breamerly said:

Jesus christ that thing was a fucking fuck.

The buck has to stop somewhere, though.

If the captain gets charged, what about the owners?

I think that boat must have been manifestly unsafe, for that service for that number of people, if a night watch would be necessary to make sure it didn't trap people below when it caught fire and sunk. A change of standards for licensing might be a good idea, too.

FB- Doug

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24 minutes ago, Steam Flyer said:

If the captain gets charged, what about the owners?

I think that boat must have been manifestly unsafe, for that service for that number of people, if a night watch would be necessary to make sure it didn't trap people below when it caught fire and sunk. A change of standards for licensing might be a good idea, too.

FB- Doug

Seems like the statute covers owners too.... "

The Seaman's Manslaughter Statute, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1115, criminalizes misconduct or negligence that result in deaths involving vessels (ships and boats) on waters in the jurisdiction of the United States. The statute exposes three groups to criminal liability:

  • ship's officers, such as captains, engineers, and pilots;
  • those having responsibility for the vessel's condition, such as owners, charterers, and inspectors; and
  • corporate management.[1]

Unlike common law manslaughter, which requires a mens rea or mental state of gross negligence or heat of passion in absence of malice, this statute requires only simple negligence — a breach of duty to perform an act or omission in violation of a standard of care

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From the article

 

All six crew members were asleep when the fire broke out, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. If that's the case, it would violate Coast Guard regulations requiring a roving watch.

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3 hours ago, Steam Flyer said:

If the captain gets charged, what about the owners?

I think that boat must have been manifestly unsafe, for that service for that number of people, if a night watch would be necessary to make sure it didn't trap people below when it caught fire and sunk. A change of standards for licensing might be a good idea, too.

FB- Doug

Agreed the owners should get it, too.

Have to potentially disagree about the boat/standards for safety, though. Safety without a watch in a fire/rapid-flood situation would require timing margins that I am not sure would be possible on a boat like that.

Even if you revised standards to require an aviation-type completely redundant no-fail alarm system - and swallow the imagination pill that corners would never be cut on it - I'm still not sure that would be fast enough for the time margins available in marine emergencies.

The physically constrained reality of ship quarters means that in a smoke* situation you have a much narrower time window to safely exit than from a land structure. People take a surprisingly long time to wake up.

That same physical constraint also means that egress is inevitably slower - fewer, narrower routes (and with the floor potentially moving), with a higher potential for blockage. 

Add the two together, and I think that even on a ship with modem alarms and lighting, and even with a trained, oriented crew member to rouse and guide guests, in the fastest-moving fire situations it still seems like a close thing to get everybody out in time from a relatively cramped below-deck berth.

 

*All the Concepcion guests died of smoke inhalation, not fire. Hemce modern building codes specifying a minimum 7 ft ceiling in bedrooms - the four feet above a sleeping person is a built-in margin for smoke to build up, trigger an alarm, and for the occupant to wake and orient.

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Rockb has it on point.  It is a Coast Guard Inspected vessel, that is the charge they can not get out of with any kind of wiggle room.  Had a proper watch been set, at the least the alarm would have been raised.

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Unfortunately regulations and change tend to come from pretty horrific events.  Pretty sure this case will not be a exception.  These boats were a definite miss in regards to USCG oversight and regulation. It's very hard to explain to anyone how incredibly fast a fire in a confined space goes from zero to 100.  Hopefully positive change in regards to safety come out of this.  

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19 hours ago, Breamerly said:

Agreed the owners should get it, too.

Have to potentially disagree about the boat/standards for safety, though. Safety without a watch in a fire/rapid-flood situation would require timing margins that I am not sure would be possible on a boat like that.

Even if you revised standards to require an aviation-type completely redundant no-fail alarm system - and swallow the imagination pill that corners would never be cut on it - I'm still not sure that would be fast enough for the time margins available in marine emergencies.

The physically constrained reality of ship quarters means that in a smoke* situation you have a much narrower time window to safely exit than from a land structure. People take a surprisingly long time to wake up.

That same physical constraint also means that egress is inevitably slower - fewer, narrower routes (and with the floor potentially moving), with a higher potential for blockage. 

Add the two together, and I think that even on a ship with modem alarms and lighting, and even with a trained, oriented crew member to rouse and guide guests, in the fastest-moving fire situations it still seems like a close thing to get everybody out in time from a relatively cramped below-deck berth.

 

*All the Concepcion guests died of smoke inhalation, not fire. Hemce modern building codes specifying a minimum 7 ft ceiling in bedrooms - the four feet above a sleeping person is a built-in margin for smoke to build up, trigger an alarm, and for the occupant to wake and orient.

You say the owners should get it too. But then you also seem to say that the vessel seemed to meet current safety standards itself. So, unless the owners ordered the captain to not set a roving watch, then what is their culpability for?

For myself I dont see owner culpability here. Not unless they knew the vessel itself was manifestly unsafe and ignored it.

This was a horrible tragedy, and the public wants people to pay. I feel like the owners should be charged too. But when I try to look at the event more objectively I am not seeing any evidence that the owners are, or should be, in criminal jeopardy.

Somebody correct me if you think I'm wrong. (That doesnt really need to be said, now does it?)

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1 minute ago, Baldur said:

You say the owners should get it too. But then you also seem to say that the vessel seemed to meet current safety standards itself. So, unless the owners ordered the captain to not set a roving watch, then what is their culpability for?

For myself I dont see owner culpability here. Not unless they knew the vessel itself was manifestly unsafe and ignored it.

This was a horrible tragedy, and the public wants people to pay. I feel like the owners should be charged too. But when I try to look at the event more objectively I am not seeing any evidence that the owners are, or should be, in criminal jeopardy.

Somebody correct me if you think I'm wrong. (That doesnt really need to be said, now does it?)

The minimum hardware standards are not a safe harbor against inadequate staffing training or other material safety issues. 

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5 minutes ago, Miffy said:

The minimum hardware standards are not a safe harbor against inadequate staffing training or other material safety issues. 

Granted. Now, where in the article, or anywhere else, is there evidence to indicate the owners staffed the vessel inadequately, failed to train the staff or were deficient in their responsibility to address "other material safety issues?" 

The vessel had, and passed, regular USCG inspections. If the "minimum hardware standards," ie USCG Regs, were inadequate then the owners should be criminally charged? For what exactly?

Who is to say the captain was tired and forgot to set a watch and the crew didnt take it upon themselves to do it? USCG has regs for crew and vessel both, and it looks like, other than the roving watch, they were, at least mostly, compliant with those rules.

I'm talking about criminal liability here. Not civil.

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Not sure if things have changed in the 25 years since then or not but I remember a dive charter boat backed over one of their deckhands and chopped him in half.  Due to the corporate structure and laws at the time the family could only get up to the value of the boat. 

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23 hours ago, Baldur said:

Now, where in the article, or anywhere else, is there evidence to indicate the owners staffed the vessel inadequately, failed to train the staff or were deficient in their responsibility to address "other material safety issues?" 

Personally (and I'm obviously not the law, although that would be dope) I think the extension of culpability to the owners, if indirect and of a lesser degree than that born by the captain, makes sense. They should be at least partly responsible to take reasonable steps to ensure the safe operation of their property. What's reasonable? The captain's word that he'll follow the rules? Again, personally I think it's reasonable to expect they go beyond that, including some degree of active, ongoing oversight.

If i hire you to operate my bus, and you gradually transition from an upstanding if washed-up Marine to a sad drunk who frequently takes power naps on the straight stretches of road, at some point I start to have responsibility for not discovering you've changed.

I'll admit though that I don't know exactly where that point is, or how much responsibility I should share if I miss it.

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3 hours ago, Breamerly said:

They should be at least partly responsible to take reasonable steps to ensure the safe operation of their property. What's reasonable?

What is reasonable? 

1.  That the vessel is equipped in accordance with USCG requirements.  It passed inspection.

2.  They have written policies in place that the crew is to operate the vessel safely.  If they are not on board and there have been no complaints that it was not how are they supposed to know that it was not?

 

If it can be proven that they knew it was standard practice that they did not have a proper watch then I absolutely agree that they shoulder some of the blame.

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24 minutes ago, rockb said:

What is reasonable? 

1.  That the vessel is equipped in accordance with USCG requirements.  It passed inspection.

2.  They have written policies in place that the crew is to operate the vessel safely.  If they are not on board and there have been no complaints that it was not how are they supposed to know that it was not?

 

If it can be proven that they knew it was standard practice that they did not have a proper watch then I absolutely agree that they shoulder some of the blame.

Owner/manager will have to prove they enforced their policies, their policies were reasonable, and they had a regular review of their policies, at a minimum.

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The little bit I read sounded like there was a fundamental fault in the accepted layout of the vessel.  The lack of multiple egress from the accommodations was the failure.  I have had to deal with fires on ships and can say 100% even with fully staffed watches you have seconds before all visibility is gone and you are only reacting.  The crew only having one point of egress is something that was missed and that is a true tradgey.

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There were 2 ways out. The stairs and an "escape hatch" - that was directly over a bunk bed with about 24" or so of clearance. 

Unfortunately the escape hatch led to the same space as the stairs, which was where the fire was.

But according to those who know USCG Passenger vessel regs better than I, it was legal. Shouldn't have been, but it was.

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7 minutes ago, Zonker said:

There were 2 ways out. The stairs and an "escape hatch" - that was directly over a bunk bed with about 24" or so of clearance. 

Unfortunately the escape hatch led to the same space as the stairs, which was where the fire was.

But according to those who know USCG Passenger vessel regs better than I, it was legal. Shouldn't have been, but it was.

And ultimately the two sides are going to battle it out in a court of law whether the USCG regs are a safe harbor and maybe individuals making a profit from offering transportation and tourism should be held to a standard they'd be liable under common law. 

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16 minutes ago, Zonker said:

There were 2 ways out. The stairs and an "escape hatch" - that was directly over a bunk bed with about 24" or so of clearance. 

Unfortunately the escape hatch led to the same space as the stairs, which was where the fire was.

But according to those who know USCG Passenger vessel regs better than I, it was legal. Shouldn't have been, but it was.

Yes should have clarified, two ways into one way.  Crazy it passed.

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24 minutes ago, Zonker said:

There were 2 ways out. The stairs and an "escape hatch" - that was directly over a bunk bed with about 24" or so of clearance. 

Unfortunately the escape hatch led to the same space as the stairs, which was where the fire was.

But according to those who know USCG Passenger vessel regs better than I, it was legal. Shouldn't have been, but it was.

I wouldn't expect the escape hatch to be an issue though culpability could attach if the owners knew the escape hatch wasn't likely to be useable in an emergency.

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26 minutes ago, MR.CLEAN said:

I wouldn't expect the escape hatch to be an issue though culpability could attach if the owners knew the escape hatch wasn't likely to be useable in an emergency.

I’d want a judge, not a jury on the question of adequacy of USCG regs. If an inspected (and passed) vessel is legally insufficient, that’s a real problem. Lack of a required watch and if the owners knew that was a regular practice is indefensible. 
 

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9 minutes ago, Innocent Bystander said:

I’d want a judge, not a jury on the question of adequacy of USCG regs. If an inspected (and passed) vessel is legally insufficient, that’s a real problem. Lack of a required watch and if the owners knees that was a regular practice is indefensible. 
 

i think owner's knowledge of unsafe conditions and resulting implicit approval is the only thing that would bring them criminal liability or remove damages from the Limitation of Liability Act for the civil actions.

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5 hours ago, rockb said:
9 hours ago, Breamerly said:

They should be at least partly responsible to take reasonable steps to ensure the safe operation of their property. What's reasonable?

What is reasonable

I guess we'll find out.

The one thing I would point to is that contracts and even basic statutes often make things seem more clear-cut than they actually are. After a few decades of case-law are taken into account, responsibility in many types of accidents rarely ends up invested absolutely in one person (the captain), and by the same token neither is blame. 

(For just one example in a separate Marine situation, take anchoring: it would seem extremely clear cut that if someone comes into the harbor after you, anchors too close, and then swings into you, it's their fault. However, in reality the fault is often found to be shared: when you observe them anchoring too close, your choice not to act (move your own boat) brought some of the liability onto you. Obviously, these are not analogous situations - but it does demonstrate that even a situation that is apparently even more clear cut can often be legally ambiguous.)

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In this modern age it seems like we put somebody in a cage for five years every time someone dies in a car crash.  No different for boats that sink, I guess.

Maritime law is intended to protect uninformed passengers who cannot be expected to gauge the risk of a voyage.

The many divers who perished in the Conception tragedy by and large knew exactly what they were getting into.  SCUBA divers are hardly the naive passengers admiralty law contemplates; they are adventurers, they have seen wrecks firsthand, and those on the Conception deliberately chose a charter that offered the most diving for the dollar with minimal attention to creature comforts and safety. Most of them had been on similar voyages on similar ships before.  Some had previously been on the conception.  Those few who had not been on similar boats knew through their research and discussion what to expect.  They were divers.  They had some amount of training, and accepted some amount of risk as inherent to the nature of the activity.

There are lower density liveaboard dive boats available for those who are willing to pay.  It's a dodgy industry overall but there are a few operators who are serious about safety.  Even on the high-dollar boats there are clothes dryer fires and the occasional explosion of a compressor that is making nitrox.  The captains of the safest boats tend to piss off their customers by being complete assholes about safety and not allowing things like unattended battery charging.  Which is where the Conception went off the rails.  Nothing the watch could have done even if they had been wide awake.

I am going to save my tears for things like the Table Rock duck boat incident that killed 17 people who genuinely, honestly thought they were on a trip that was perfectly safe.  People who did not know any better.  People who had never seen a wreck.  People who couldn't fucking swim. On a boat that had been waivered by the CG over NTSB objections.

 

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On 9/4/2020 at 1:50 PM, MR.CLEAN said:

Owner/manager will have to prove they enforced their policies, their policies were reasonable, and they had a regular review of their policies, at a minimum.

I thought the onus was for the plaintiffs to prove guilt, not for the defendant to prove innocence.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Not looking good for the Captain and Company. Crew is saying they received no emergency procedures training.  A sister ship (Vision)  from the same company had a small lithium charging fire in 2018. Post fire inspection turned up 11 fire safety violations and capacity was restricted due to poor egress through a small hatch from stacked bunks.  Really troubling that one of the crew stated that he saw sparks when he plugged in his cell phone before going to sleep and didn't report that to anyone.  

Together, these can show that the owners knew or should have known of the increased risks and that they had a responsibility to ensure the Captain was conduction required emergency training.  

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/no-emergency-training-crew-dive-boat-where-fire-killed-34-n1240277

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On 9/7/2020 at 7:52 AM, bgytr said:

I thought the onus was for the plaintiffs to prove guilt, not for the defendant to prove innocence.

The article in the OP mentions criminal manslaughter.  Here is the federal statute:

(a)
Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. It is of two kinds:

Voluntary—Upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.

Involuntary—In the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony, or in the commission in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection, of a lawful act which might produce death.

(b)
Within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States,

Whoever is guilty of voluntary manslaughter, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both;

Whoever is guilty of involuntary manslaughter, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.

 

 

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6 minutes ago, MR.CLEAN said:

 

(a)
Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. It is of two kinds:

Voluntary—Upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.

Involuntary—In the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony, or in the commission in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection, of a lawful act which might produce death.

(b)
Within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States,

Whoever is guilty of voluntary manslaughter, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both;

Whoever is guilty of involuntary manslaughter, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.

 

 

Let's analyze the involuntary manslaughter elements.  It is (1) an unlawful killing (2) without malice (3) in the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony, or (4) in the commission in an unlawful manner or (4) without due caution and circumspection, (5) of a lawful act which might produce death.

(1) Unlawful killing;  Obviously, the victims are dead, but did the defendants act 'kill them'? And if the defendant's act was the cause of the death, was the killing 'unlawful'?  That's where we start to look at other statutes that the defendant may have been subject to.  

(2) Without malice;  Malice is really intent here, implied or actual.  You can imply intent from a very high level of recklessness; i.e. if the boat owners knew the emergency exit was unusable and were informed it would kill people and ignored it, there actually could be malice and a voluntary manslaughter charge.   I doubt that is the case here.

(3) in the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony.  Here's where any deviation from USCG or California regulations could subject them to liability.

(4) or in the commission [of a lawful act] in an unlawful manner or without due caution and circumspection.  Here's where it gets dangerous for the defendants.  They don't need to violate the regulations or any laws.  The 'without due caution and circumspection' is a call out for some level of negligence only.  Not knowledge, not even recklessness.

(5) which might produce death.  Obviously. 

So, if the federal prosecutor can prove that the boat owners' failure to follow the law or failure to exert due caution and circumspection over the emergency exit plan, maintenance, or whatever else they are required to do by the USCG and California with respect to emergency exits, they will likely be able to convict the boat owners of involuntary manslaughter.  The sentence would likely depend on how egregious the boat owners' actions were in their failure to properly provide a safe exit, whether the boat owners' are/have paid sufficient restitution to the victims families, and some other factors.  

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On 9/4/2020 at 6:59 PM, 2airishuman said:

The many divers who perished in the Conception tragedy by and large knew exactly what they were getting into

Cheap, crowded quarters with little amenities, sure. But risk of death due to it being a deathtrap in case of fire? Nobody signs up for that. 

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19 minutes ago, Zonker said:

Cheap, crowded quarters with little amenities, sure. But risk of death due to it being a deathtrap in case of fire? Nobody signs up for that. 

There was so much wrong in that diatribe I can't believe it took so long for someone to comment. I refrained, so good on you.

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I have been on that boat multiple times (decades ago). People at my son's  school died in the accident. It is a tragedy. But prosecuting the captain and suing the operator are not going to bring anyone back from the dead. Truth aquatics was not a shoddy organization, in my opinion.

This can and should cause a re-examination of egress requirements from sleeping quarters. I didn't even know there was a hatch leading out of the sleeping quarters. So I think the probability is exactly zero that anyone would get out through the hatch.

I don't know coast guard regulations, but if the captain failed to set a watch, and that is required, well, then you could make the argument that that contributed to the deadliness of this fire. But realistically, this was obviously a very quick event. I believe it was most likely a lithium battery pack fire. So the sleeping quarters and main cabin of the boat were suddenly flooded with extremely toxic smoke and everyone died in minutes except for the crew members who were sleeping in a different location. Every single person in the sleeping quarters died, including one of the crew.

So if you want to save lives, focus on egress, fire detection, and probably some kind of restrictions on lithium ion battery packs. But this being America, I am sure many people will want to see blood drawn in civil or criminal court. Because Americans love the idea of punishment.

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  • 4 weeks later...

i think the USCG and any other agency responsible for the safety oversight should be fucked with a piece of sharp coral.  what are the two most dangerous things that can happen to a boat afloat on the water? sinking and fire, fire being #1 by a longshot.  every boat owner with half a brain realizes how fucking dangerous even a small fire aboard can be.  its terrifying to even think of it happening even in the safety of a slip. 

it doesnt take a rocket scientist to sit down aboard a vessel and within a few minutes imagine half a dozen potential fire scenarios.  i own a sailboat and  even a dimwit like me took the time to imagine what would happen if i had fires that got out of control in all the different parts of my boat, how i would handle them and in a worse case scenario how i would escape.  its not even my job i just wanted to be a little more safe.

its part of the fucking job of the USCG and im sure but not aware of other regulatory agencies to do this.  these motherfuckers get paid from our pockets to do these things for us so were safe in situations a common person cant reasonably assess.  its their job to go and assess these situations, imagine problems and come up with safe solutions.  im not trying to armchair after the fact but i cant imagine how hard it would have been for a few knuckle dragging dimwits to go aboard a vessel, knowing how dangerous fire situations are and imagine a fire in every part of the vessel, what would happen and waht should be done to counter all the possibilities.  this was not a large fucking tanker, this was a relatively small boat.  are you gonna tell me Jim and Bob Coast guard inspectors couldn't imagine what would happen if a fire broke out right over that safety hatch?  unlikely sure but any professional would have. 

sorry the coast guard are fantastic and they do a tremendous amount of good but i personally think they really fucking dropped the ball and are partially to blame. when they do they should be sufficiently fucked for doing so.  i think its called high standards, let em slip cause your just cruising to get the 20 year pension and what do we end up with? 34 dead people.

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On many sailboats, I see dinghys that are lashed to the foredeck and therefore blocking the fore hatch. 

Makes me shudder.

Is my concern warranted?

Are there known cases of fire death aboard sailboats with a blocked fore hatch?

Steve

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18 hours ago, Panope said:

On many sailboats, I see dinghys that are lashed to the foredeck and therefore blocking the fore hatch. 

Makes me shudder.

Is my concern warranted?

Are there known cases of fire death aboard sailboats with a blocked fore hatch?

Steve

Steve,

At least in the US, there are so few deaths on cruising sailboats that each is pretty definable.  Several years ago, Maryland considered a poorly constructed life jacket bill requiring kids to wear jackets at all times with no exceptions for at anchor, in the cabin, etc.  As part of my comments to our legislators, I researched on the water deaths pretty thoroughly. Small powerboats, drinking and small fishing boats and the like were prominent. Fire related deaths on boats were very rare and IIRC, there were none at the time on cruising sailboats. 

Certainly the “2 exit” rule is a good thing but hard to make a data driven case that a dingy over a hatch is as dangerous on a private boat as an offset companionway. 

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19 hours ago, Panope said:

On many sailboats, I see dinghys that are lashed to the foredeck and therefore blocking the fore hatch. 

Makes me shudder.

Is my concern warranted?

Are there known cases of fire death aboard sailboats with a blocked fore hatch?

Steve

The trick is to minimize combustion sources in the fuel and electrical system - not fantasize about fire hatch escapes  

 

On 10/15/2020 at 2:00 AM, Astroturf said:

i think the USCG and any other agency responsible for the safety oversight should be fucked with a piece of sharp coral.  what are the two most dangerous things that can happen to a boat afloat on the water? sinking and fire, fire being #1 by a longshot.  every boat owner with half a brain realizes how fucking dangerous even a small fire aboard can be.  its terrifying to even think of it happening even in the safety of a slip. 

it doesnt take a rocket scientist to sit down aboard a vessel and within a few minutes imagine half a dozen potential fire scenarios.  i own a sailboat and  even a dimwit like me took the time to imagine what would happen if i had fires that got out of control in all the different parts of my boat, how i would handle them and in a worse case scenario how i would escape.  its not even my job i just wanted to be a little more safe.

its part of the fucking job of the USCG and im sure but not aware of other regulatory agencies to do this.  these motherfuckers get paid from our pockets to do these things for us so were safe in situations a common person cant reasonably assess.  its their job to go and assess these situations, imagine problems and come up with safe solutions.  im not trying to armchair after the fact but i cant imagine how hard it would have been for a few knuckle dragging dimwits to go aboard a vessel, knowing how dangerous fire situations are and imagine a fire in every part of the vessel, what would happen and waht should be done to counter all the possibilities.  this was not a large fucking tanker, this was a relatively small boat.  are you gonna tell me Jim and Bob Coast guard inspectors couldn't imagine what would happen if a fire broke out right over that safety hatch?  unlikely sure but any professional would have. 

sorry the coast guard are fantastic and they do a tremendous amount of good but i personally think they really fucking dropped the ball and are partially to blame. when they do they should be sufficiently fucked for doing so.  i think its called high standards, let em slip cause your just cruising to get the 20 year pension and what do we end up with? 34 dead people.

This is a long rant against the agency that is chronically underfunded, asked to deploy abroad, while getting no regulatory authority for more aggressive enforcement because WH and Congress. 
 

but go on. 

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It's a double edged sword in the US, small vessels have very little regulation, which is what it seems the populace wants.  Think regular safety inspections on your personal boat having to meet multiple inspection criteria etc.  That doesn't exist. The USCG for the most part is left with the job of federally trying to  deal with it all including small charter boats.  There was a huge oversight in this boat but the blame is not all on the USCG, they work for the people and the people get what they want or don't want in this case which is alot of regulation.

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On 10/16/2020 at 11:21 AM, Panope said:

On many sailboats, I see dinghys that are lashed to the foredeck and therefore blocking the fore hatch. 

Makes me shudder.

Is my concern warranted?

Are there known cases of fire death aboard sailboats with a blocked fore hatch?

Steve

My thinking on this is that usually the dinghy is on the foredeck on long voyages. People usually don't sleep in the forward cabin on long voyages. They sleep on the settees. I realize this is not scientific. But it is my thinking on the matter. Once you get to the anchorage or marina you put the dinghy in the water. Also, if you have a fire in the middle of the ocean, escaping to the foredeck is just a temporary reprieve. You have to put out that fire or you are in deep trouble.

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On 10/16/2020 at 2:21 PM, Panope said:

On many sailboats, I see dinghys that are lashed to the foredeck and therefore blocking the fore hatch. 

Makes me shudder.

Is my concern warranted?

Are there known cases of fire death aboard sailboats with a blocked fore hatch?

Steve

Like @Innocent Bystander, I'm a Navy guy and things like multiple egress and proactively preventing fires are in my blood.

On my early fall cruise, it poured cats and dogs so for the first time ever, I hoisted our dinghy on deck.  After we arrived at our destination marina yeah, the blocked hatch was the first thing I noticed when I crawled into the bunky for the night. I had a battery charger and A/C going, pulling a pretty solid load on the shore power connection. I got up and disconnected the battery charger and set the A/C to "low" to reduce the loads and risk.

We also happen to have a fire extinguisher in the v-berth. I would have used it to blast a path to the companionway so we could escape.

My boat is only 33 feet but I keep an extinguisher in the v-berth, the galley and the engine compartment. The reasoning being, if you have a galley fire you won't be able to access the galley extinguisher so you grab the engine room or v-berth extinguisher, and vice-versa for all the other scenarios.  Also, I have a fire blanket for smothering galley fires or for wrapping oneself in, for escaping.

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On 10/17/2020 at 6:36 AM, Miffy said:

The trick is to minimize combustion sources in the fuel and electrical system - not fantasize about fire hatch escapes  

 

This is a long rant against the agency that is chronically underfunded, asked to deploy abroad, while getting no regulatory authority for more aggressive enforcement because WH and Congress. 
 

but go on. 

you mean to say the USCG inspector cant tell the boat owner to fix the fucking problem or else?  seems hard to beleive the owner of the vessel has more power to tell the USCG to go fuck themselves no matter what the current state of funding is.

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On 10/17/2020 at 8:00 AM, SASSAFRASS said:

It's a double edged sword in the US, small vessels have very little regulation, which is what it seems the populace wants.  Think regular safety inspections on your personal boat having to meet multiple inspection criteria etc.  That doesn't exist. The USCG for the most part is left with the job of federally trying to  deal with it all including small charter boats.  There was a huge oversight in this boat but the blame is not all on the USCG, they work for the people and the people get what they want or don't want in this case which is alot of regulation.

It makes sense that personal vessels have limited regulations.  a personal property owner should have nearly full responsibility for his own vessel and his own safety. once it turns into a commercial vessel the hammer should drop because your inviting civilians aboard who probably cant even imagine all the necessary safety concerns. sometimes leaders (ie...coast guard commanders) need to step up and crack the fucking whip.  i find it hard to beleive they had no authority in enforcing the inclusion of a safety hatch because they are forced to deploy overseas and have a limited budget. fucking excuses...

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24 minutes ago, Astroturf said:

you mean to say the USCG inspector cant tell the boat owner to fix the fucking problem or else?  seems hard to beleive the owner of the vessel has more power to tell the USCG to go fuck themselves no matter what the current state of funding is.

USCG doesn’t control the CFR - DOT does. 

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Sadly a lot of the USCG that I have dealt with grew up in a rural part of the Midwest. Many don't have a deep knowledge of their so-called areas of expertise.

I am currently designing tugs for the Canadian Navy. Crew of 6 for short coastal tows up to a week. There is a small crane to launch the rescue boat and also serve to load heavier spare parts, groceries on board.

They asked their "Subject Matter Expert" how long such a crane would be in service as a utility crane.  "9 hours / day x 5 days/week" was the reply.

Maybe, just maybe if you were provisioning your frigate to go the Persian Gulf you'd use a crane that long. But for a small tug? You could carry the week's groceries aboard in 10 minutes if all 6 crew pitched in. 

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9 hours ago, Astroturf said:

It makes sense that personal vessels have limited regulations.  a personal property owner should have nearly full responsibility for his own vessel and his own safety. once it turns into a commercial vessel the hammer should drop because your inviting civilians aboard who probably cant even imagine all the necessary safety concerns. sometimes leaders (ie...coast guard commanders) need to step up and crack the fucking whip.  i find it hard to beleive they had no authority in enforcing the inclusion of a safety hatch because they are forced to deploy overseas and have a limited budget. fucking excuses...

Coast Guard can and does enforce regs on inspected vessels and Conception’s layout was passed (multiple times, IIRC). Friend is a retired inspector. Unfortunately, the requirements don’t require craftsmanship and are subject to “grandfathering” of previously approved details. The Inspectors are expected to at least be aware that their job isn’t to require a 30 YO boat to perfectly meet this year’s standards so there is some subjectivity. I suspect we might see some review of subjectivity after this.  As always, safety regs are written in blood. 
 

I have heard stories of wooden head boats with rotten planks patched over with common interior ply, mild steel screws and a slathering of resin-from the inside. “Just until I can schedule a haul out” was the excuse for that one. That boat failed by the way....

 

 

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9 hours ago, Astroturf said:

It makes sense that personal vessels have limited regulations.  a personal property owner should have nearly full responsibility for his own vessel and his own safety. once it turns into a commercial vessel the hammer should drop because your inviting civilians aboard who probably cant even imagine all the necessary safety concerns. sometimes leaders (ie...coast guard commanders) need to step up and crack the fucking whip.  i find it hard to beleive they had no authority in enforcing the inclusion of a safety hatch because they are forced to deploy overseas and have a limited budget. fucking excuses...

My point is the USCG are following rules made by the people and their elected officials.  Yes they do have some leeway and in my experience tend to very much error on the side of caution, but at the end of the day they have to follow CFRs, personal or professional boats.  And they do regulate both, they can give you a safety inspection and if you don't have your flares fire extinguishers etc, odds are they will give you a warning.  If you fuck up and are in danger they also come save you for free. They can make suggestions about items that could be better but if it's not a violation of a CFR or law they can't make you do it.  

Like charter vessels commercial fishing vessels are a prime example of a purposely unregulated body.  You can have a uninspected fishing vessel 400' long with a crew of 200.  In any other place this would be a solas vessel with massively different rules and equipment standards. But that is not what the industry wanted it and that is how the laws got written.  

Coast Guard commanders don't write laws, elected officials do.

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50 minutes ago, Innocent Bystander said:

Coast Guard can and does enforce regs on inspected vessels and Conception’s layout was passed (multiple times, IIRC). Friend is a retired inspector. Unfortunately, the requirements don’t require craftsmanship and are subject to “grandfathering” of previously approved details. The Inspectors are expected to at least be aware that their job isn’t to require a 30 YO boat to perfectly meet this year’s standards so there is some subjectivity. I suspect we might see some review of subjectivity after this.  As always, safety regs are written in blood. 
 

I have heard stories of wooden head boats with rotten planks patched over with common interior ply, mild steel screws and a slathering of resin-from the inside. “Just until I can schedule a haul out” was the excuse for that one. That boat failed by the way....

 

 

I've done inspections with DNV, Rena, ABS and USCG.  By far the USCG was the strictest of all.

In multiple cases there were items on the USCG boat I did that the inspector made reccomedations that exceeded the rules and on safety items I happily implemented them.  It's a no brainier.  A slight modification to a watertight door that is a old POS will make it pass a chalk test and they have to pass it, or just instal a new one which I did.  Having to grind all the new  paint off interior WT doors knife edge, that I'm going argue.

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