Princess Of The Stars – Dead Masters Can Speak Through VDRs

 accident reporting, capsize, Ferry, Filipino  Comments Off on Princess Of The Stars – Dead Masters Can Speak Through VDRs
Aug 092008
 

Not unexpectedly, the master of the Sulpicio Lines ferry Princess Of The Stars will be deemed liable by a Board Of Marine Inquiry for its capsize and sinking with the loss of 800 lives. All other factors such as inadequate lashing of the cargo, modifications which punched holes through what was once a wagon deck so that it could be used for passengers and which may have allowed her to take on water and lose her main engine power as she listed, the possible lack of guidance to the master in the company’s safety management system are merely contributory and those responsible for those actions/inactions are faultless because the master, in theory, has ultimate responsibility.

The finding has the significant advantage of blaming a man who can no longer speak for himself, short of a spiritualist – the master is among those who lost their lives, along with the rest of the officers on the bridge at the time. His fault was to depart at a time when a typhoon was entering the Philippines, the assumption being, apparently, that ships of the size of the Princess Of The Stars, around 24,000 tonnes, simply naturally capsize and sink in a storm.

The view of every master MAC has spoken to is that the Princess Of The Stars should have been able to survive the storm, if with some discomfort to its passengers. The forensic evidence to establish the mechanism by which she sank remains underwater and apparently unwanted.

Yet there is a way in which the master could have spoken to us post mortem – a voyage data recorder, VDR. A device similar in concept to the ‘black box’, actually bright orange, carried by every commercial passenger aircraft in the Philippines. Earlier this year, following the sinking of the ferry Queen Of The North, which was not so equipped, the Canadian maritime authorities mandated that every ferry must be equipped with VDR.

So should the Philippines.

The VDR would have revealed what was actually said during radio traffic, discussions between the bridge team and what was showing on the instruments available to the bridge team, and whether those instruments were actually working.

It would tell us much that we need to know in order to learn the lessons needed to avoid similar incidents in the future, which is the aim of maritime investigation.

Through that device we would understand better the nature of the decisions made by the master. He could have spoken to us through it. It would have empowered the BMI, MARINA – the Philippine Maritime authority – and the Philippine Coastguard to do their jobs of making Philippine seas safer.

Despite hours of debate, however, VDR, possibly the greatest contribution to objective maritime accident investigation in the Philippines has yet to be mentioned.

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May 262008
 

In The Case Of The Electric Assassin I suggested that, if you’re going to enter an enclosed space without the proper equipment or precautions then dig two graves, one for yourself and one for the poor sods who’ll try and rescue you. That recommendations was validated by two virtually identical incidents, several thousand miles apart, within just 24 hours.

There’ll be little wonder that maritime casualty investigators grind their teeth in frustration when these enclosed space incidents occur, partly because they keep happening and partly because little is done to stop them happening.

On 20th May this year at Port Everglades a dock superviser, Hyman Sooknanan, entered an enclosed space aboard Madelaine, a 110 metre cargo ship, to investigate a suspected leak of argon from a container gas tank.

He didn’t return, nor did he respond to radio calls. Worried, a second docker, James Cason, wrapped a shirt around his face and entered the space to find out what happened to Sooknanan. He didn’t reappear either. Now a third man, Rene Robert Duterte did the same, with the same result.

In 20 minutes, three men were dead, the last two because they’d tried the help the first.

Argon isn’t chemically poisonous but it does displace oxygen in the air, asphyxiating the victim. It gets you almost without warning and wrapping something around your face isn’t going to stop it happening when there’s no oxygen in the atmosphere to breathe.

On 22nd May in Chongming Dadong Shipping Yard, Shanghai, 21st May in Florida, three Filipino seafarers died and 10 were injured, all from a single vessel, the Hakone, in an incident involving leakage of another suffocating gas, carbon dioxide.

As research by Don Sheetz of the Vanuatu Registry for the Maritime Accident Investigators International Forum shows, these were not isolated incidents. In just three months, Sheetz gathered reports on 120 enclosed space incidents with 228 from just 16 flag registries over a period of about 10 years. With figures from the largest registries still not available, some estimate that the true figure may be as high as 1,000 deaths.

Says Sheetz:”We are concerned that this is just the tip of the iceberg and will ultimately become a larger issue than, say, dropping of lifeboats.

The numbers are simply too high, and the incidents too frequent, to dismiss as unfortunate one-offs. It is unsatisfactory to conclude that it was the victims’ faults, because they, and their would-be rescuers, didn’t follow procedures, and close the book

What they show is that there is something deeply wrong with the system and with the industry that allows deaths on such a scale without a qualm. If there were qualms, there would be a solid drive to find a solution and there isn’t one. It’s a record of which the industry should be ashamed.

It is self-evident that training is inadequate in the first place and the necessary drills are not being carried out onboard or alongside in the procedures for safe entry and rescue from confined spaces.

Training will be ineffective unless backed-up by a positive management level commitment to managing safety, assessing competence onboard and developing a safety culture from company head-office to the master to the deputy chief assist cook’s chief assistant deputy. All too often putting a safety management system on a ship is little more than a butt-covering exercise to avoid liability when the worse happens.

Let’s look at it another way. If the estimates of deaths in enclosed spaces are reasonably accurate, and there’s every reason to believe they are, then enough lives have been lost to put crew on 40 to 50 cargo ships. Currently the industry is going through paroxysms of recruitment to fulfill manning needs of the future, maybe they should spend just a little more time trying to keep alive the ones they’ve already got.

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Whatever Happened To MAC Pinoy?

 Filipino, maritime accidents  Comments Off on Whatever Happened To MAC Pinoy?
Dec 172007
 

Ok, most people reading this will know that Filipinos represent the largest single nationality in the global maritime workforce, around 25 per cent, and that will probably increase over the coming years. Most Filipinos speak English, the Philippines is the world’s third largest group of English speakers so most don’t have a problem with the MAC podcasts or the transcripts (The majority of Filipinos are actually tri-lingual, fluent in their own regional language as well as Tagalog, the national language, and English).

BUT, it’s MAC’s policy to reach out to seafarers in the most effective way and in the most effective language so we decided to launch MAC episode editions in Tagalog.

The first four episodes have been translated by Ami Jacinto, a translator and well-know voice talent in the Philippines who will be presenting the audio podcasts. We announced the coming service earlier this year.

SO what happened? As we were preparing to record the Tagalog episode, IDESS Interactive Technologies revealed that it was about to construct a purpose-built sound facility and offered to let MAC use the facility to record its podcasts. Needless to say we were delighted and wanted to launch the Tagalog service using those facilities.

Construction should be complete in January so we decided to put the Tagalog service on hold so we could launch it using the new facility.

So, yes, the Tagalog service is coming we hope to broadcast the first episodes in late January/early February.

The Tagalog service will be on trial. If there is demand from Filipino seafarers and we can secure sponsorship we’ll keep it going.

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Maritime Safety News Today, September 4, 2007

 BMA, collision, fatality, Fife, Filipino, Gibraltar, MAIB, New Flame, oil spill, South Africa  Comments Off on Maritime Safety News Today, September 4, 2007
Sep 042007
 

UK. Red Ensign fly’s to mark Merchant Navy Day
BYM News (press release) – Gibraltar,Spain
Merchant Navy Day honours their memory, and also looks forward to a brighter future for British shipping and seafarers.

Spain contracts EU vessel for clean up operations
gibfocus.gi – Gibraltar
The decision has come after reports of hydraulic oil spill from the New Flame cargo vessel stranded off Europa Point since the 12th August after a collision

Spain calls in EMSA as ‘New Flame’ deteriorates
bunkerworld – London,UK
The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has responded to a Spanish request for assistance as the condition of the stricken cargo vessel New Flame has 

Bodies found of two Slovak sailors killed in ship collision – Summary
Earthtimes.org – USA
Tel Aviv – Israeli rescue services found the bodies Friday of two Slovak sailors, who died in a shipping accident the previous night off the coast of the

9 seamen in ship sinking recall harrowing ordeal
INQ7.net – Philippines
lone fatality in the accident, was found three hours after the rest of the crew were rescued by the South African Air Force and maritime authorities.

Boat sank ‘after chance accident’
BBC News – UK
The MAIB said the Meridian was considered to be a modern and well-maintained vessel in the hands of an experienced skipper. The case could be reopened –

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