NTSB to Academies: Up Cadet's Game

 accident reporting, maritime accidents  Comments Off on NTSB to Academies: Up Cadet's Game
Feb 092009
 

Empress of the North

grounding site

Location of the grounding

Maritime academies in the US have been told to ensure that their cadets understood their responsibilities as licensed officers when they assume their first navigational watch as professional mariners. The advice followed the publication of the US National Transportation Safety Board’s report on the grounding at night of the 300-foot passenger vessel Empress of the North in May, 2007, while under the command of a third mate who had graduated from the California Maritime Academy less than three weeks before.

The officer was not familiar with the bridge equipment or procedures. Neither the Master nor Chief Mate had reviewed the route with him, discussed the steering modes, or critical equipment such as radar. One particular hazard, Rocky Island, required the Officer Of the Watch to make a critical decision.

He was initially assigned to the midnight to 0400 watch, his first navigational watch, with the senior third mate. The day before the accident the senior third mate fell ill. The master decide to maintain the planned watch but to add the vessel’s most experienced helmsman in an attempt to mitigate the junior third officer’s inexperience.

During the passage, the third officer gave effective command to the helmsman. He later told investigators” My understanding was he (the helmsman) would be in control of the boat, and I would be there because I have a license.”

The road to the rock

An inexperience officer left navigation to the helmsman

About 0130 on Monday, May 14, 2007, the Empress of the North, grounded on Rocky Island, which was illuminated by a flashing green navigation light. The US Coast Guard and several Good Samaritan vessels assisted in evacuating the passengers and nonessential crewmembers and safely transporting them back to Juneau. No injuries or pollution resulted from the accident, but the vessel sustained significant damage to its starboard underside and propulsion system.

Say the NTSB: “the junior third mate failed to understand and fulfill his responsibilities as a licensed officer… Newly licensed third officers will often find themselves on a ship they have never sailed on, in an unfamiliar waterway they have never transited before, and in the company of a master and crew they have never served with before. These circumstances do not, however, absolve them of their responsibility to take charge as the officer of the watch when so assigned .. His (the junior third officer’s) expressed confidence… suggests that he did not fully appreciate his duties and responsibilities and what was required to fulfill them.”

In a letter, the NTSB urges maritime academies: “teach your students the circumstances of this accident, including their responsibilities as newly licensed officers to prepare themselves for assigned duties and to express their concerns if placed in situations for which they are unprepared.

NTSB Empress of the North report

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Good News: Pirates Aren't Terrorists, Bad News: Pirates Aren't Terrorists

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Good News: Pirates Aren't Terrorists, Bad News: Pirates Aren't Terrorists
Jun 052008
 

Having a somewhat cynical turn of mind when it comes to the ‘War’ on Terrorism I’ve always been leery of those folk promoting the idea that pirates are really part of the global network of terrorism. That the terrorist network exists is certainly true, it has existed for decades since (Non-Islamic) terrorists in Germany, Japan, France, the US and Northern Ireland were trained in places like Libya for a fee, and pirates certainly exist, but they shouldn’t be confused with each other.

Old Sailor over at Marinebuzz has an enlightening 15 Reasons: Piracy Attack of a Ship is Different from Hijacking of Aircraft which in essence says pretty much what the recent Rand Corporation study Piracy and Terrorism at Sea: A Rising Challenge for U.S. Security with longer words and more syllables. You can download your own copy of the complete study here, but here’s how the press release goes:

“Acts of piracy and terrorism at sea are on the rise, but there is little evidence to support concerns from some governments and international organizations that pirates and terrorists are beginning to collude with one another…

The objectives of the two crimes remain different — piracy is aimed at financial gain while the goal of terrorism is political. Although both events are increasing, piracy is growing much faster and remains far more common than seaborne terrorism…

“The maritime environment will likely remain a favorable theater for armed violence, crime and terrorism given its expanse, lack of regulation and general importance as a critical conduit for international trade,” said Peter Chalk, author of the study and a senior political scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “While there is no quick fix for eliminating all of this, we can rationally manage the threats within acceptable boundaries.”

Chalk said the study’s findings suggest U.S. policymakers focus too much on responding to worse-case terrorist scenarios rather than crafting policies to combat lower consequence (but more probable) attacks that could strike cruise ships or passenger ferries. Just as seriously, the U.S. government has paid comparatively little attention to combating piracy, despite its proven cost in terms of human lives, political stability and economic disruption.

… The overall problem is almost certainly even greater than the figures suggest as researchers suspect nearly half of all piracy attacks are not reported, usually because of fears about subsequent investigation costs and increases to insurance premiums.

…Chalk said that a number of factors have contributed to the recent growth of piracy, including: lax port security and ineffective coastal surveillance; massive growth in commercial maritime traffic; heavy use of narrow and congested chokepoints, such as the Strait of Malacca; and competing resource requirements stemming from heightened national and international pressure to enact expensive, land-based homeland security systems following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In addition, the lingering effects of the Asian financial crisis that spurred falling wages, higher food prices and job losses in the late 1990s, directly contributed to the growth of piracy in and around Indonesia by creating an incentive for many to engage in maritime (and other types) of crime.

Maritime terrorism — attacks against vessels, sea platforms, ports or other coastal facilities — has also experienced a modest increase, particularly over the past six years when several attacks and plots have been attributed to al-Qaeda and affiliated jihadist networks. These incidents have raised concerns in the West, especially in the United States, that terrorists are now actively seeking to extend their operational reach beyond land-based attacks, Chalk said.

While the Bush administration has been at the forefront of efforts to upgrade global maritime security through such initiatives such as the Container Security Initiative and the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, these measures are limited in scope and lack a definitive means to evaluate and audit their overall utility and transparency, Chalk said.

Overall it’s good news, given the general ineffectiveness in operations to stop piracy. But it might also be bad news: if the pirates aren’t terrorists, little more than seaborn smash-and-grabbers, will there still be the political will to address the situation?

The UN Security Council’s recent resolution on piracy may be a step forward in legitimising ‘hot pursuit’ and allowing third country forces to enter Somali waters to combat piracy. At the same time, resources, especially financial, that could be put to good use in addressing both piracy and seaborn terrorism are being diverted to shore-based projects to increase the thickness of the wall around America.

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Website of Note: Tetley’s Maritime and Admiralty Law

 maritime safety news  Comments Off on Website of Note: Tetley’s Maritime and Admiralty Law
Apr 252008
 

Professor William Tetley, Faculty of Law

Professor William Tetley of Canada’s McGill University’s Faculty of Law has an often tongue in cheek site (How to Become a Maritime Lawyer Without Even Trying) and insight into some major cases like the Prestige from a maritime law perspective.

If, like me, you delight in trivia and oddities try this : “If goods on board a ship shall be damaged by rats, and there be no cat in the ship, the managing owner is bound to make compensation. But if the ship has had cats on board in the place where she was loaded, and after she has sailed away the said cats have died, and the rats have damaged the goods, if the managing owner of the ship shall buy cats and put them on board as soon as they arrive at a place where they can find them, he is not bound to make good the said losses, for they have not happened through his default.” Its part of an article  titled “If a ship is lost to a peril of the sea, How Can You Say She Was Seaworthy?” by John Weale, which you’ll find at the Tetley website.

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Website of Note: Tetley’s Maritime and Admiralty Law

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Website of Note: Tetley’s Maritime and Admiralty Law
Apr 252008
 

Professor William Tetley of Canada’s McGill University’s Faculty of Law has an often tongue in cheek site (How to Become a Maritime Lawyer Without Even Trying) and insight into some major cases like the Prestige from a maritime law perspective.

If, like me, you delight in trivia and oddities try this : “If goods on board a ship shall be damaged by rats, and there be no cat in the ship, the managing owner is bound to make compensation. But if the ship has had cats on board in the place where she was loaded, and after she has sailed away the said cats have died, and the rats have damaged the goods, if the managing owner of the ship shall buy cats and put them on board as soon as they arrive at a place where they can find them, he is not bound to make good the said losses, for they have not happened through his default.” Its part of an article titled “If a ship is lost to a peril of the sea, How Can You Say She Was Seaworthy?” by John Weale, which you’ll find at the Tetley website.

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