Federal accident investigators on Dec 12 will determine the probable cause of the sinking of the "El Faro". The National Transportation Safety Board was expected to issue more than 50 safety recommendations related to the Oct. 1, 2015 loss of ship near the Bahamas whocj sank about 34 hours after leaving Jacksonville, Florida, on a cargo run to Puerto Rico. The freighter lost propulsion while sailing through Hurricane Joaquin, eventually coming to rest 4,570 meters on the sea floor.
The NTSB said the board will address problems with weather forecasting, management of the ship, the suitability of the ship’s lifeboats and the oversight of the vessel by its owner, TOTE Maritime, Inc.
The board’s final report comes after one issued by the U.S. Coast Guard on the second anniversary of the ship’s sinking. The Coast Guard’s report found the primary cause to be with the ship Capt. Michael Davidson, who they said underestimated the strength of the hurricane and overestimated the 40-year-old old ship’s strength.
According to transcripts of audio recovered from the ship’s voyage data recorder, Davidson refused suggestions by his crew to take a slower, safer route as the storm grew into a Category 3 hurricane.
The recorder caught the final hours of the ship’s increasingly desperate crew as they tried to save the "El Faro" and themselves.
But the Coast Guard also said the ship’s owner TOTE had violated safety regulations to ensure the crew was well rested, and that the company had not replaced a safety officer management position.
TOTE also had stopped employing port helpers who helped safely load cargo on the ships. The Coast Guard found that "El Faro"’s crew had difficulty keeping up with the brisk loading pace required to keep the ship on schedule.
The ship also had open-top lifeboats, unlike the closed-top lifeboats used on modern ships. While legal, the ship’s use of the older-style boats was only allowed because of an exemption to safety rules for older ships like the El Faro.
The Coast Guard was seeking civil penalties against TOTE, but not criminal.
The NTSB’s findings could create a safer working environment for mariners in the future. For example, the board could help by calling for the removal of the safety exemption that allowed the "El Faro" to legally use old lifeboats. If the NTSB takes an aggressive course, they may be able to effectively change regulations and policies that will enhance safety at sea.
The South Korean Cabinet was to approve 50.5 billion won (US$ 46.3 million) on Dec 12 in additional expenses to be paid to a Chinese salvage firm for raising the "Sewol" and for a planned operation to put the vessel in an upright position for an additional search. Shanghai Salvage had agreed with South Korea's government to lift the ferry Sewol for 91.6 billion won, but since raising the vessel in March, the company has demanded an additional 100 billion won, saying it cost much more than expected to raise the ship. The two sides have since negotiated the additional amount to be paid. The actual payment will be made only after the completion of an ongoing investigation into whether the firm deliberately dragged its feet in the operation.
The Cabinet was also to authorize 17.6 billion won for an operation to put the raised vessel, which has been lying on its side, in an upright position for an additional search for the five people still missing in the deadly sinking that left more than 300 people, mostly high school students, dead.
The U.S. Coast Guard escorted the "Resolve Pioneer" back to Unalaska after it lost use of an engine last week. She had sailed from Busan on Nov 30, 2017, when hitting a snag in the western Pacific Ocean, somewhere southwest of Attu. There might be some fishing line or a net wrapped around one of the propellers. The ship has been slowed down and was running only on one main engine instead of two as a precaution. The tug is expected to reach the island around next week, along with the Coast Guard Cutter "Sherman". Back in port a dive team will cut away the snagged line and the "Resolve Pioneer" will resume its place in response, salvage, and towing operations after months of maintenance in Asia.
On Dec 10, 2017, the US Coast Guard towed the "Ashyline" to Astoria after the main engine had failed about 17 miles west of Willapa Bay. The 52-foot lifeboat "Triumph II" was deployed from the Station Cape Disappointment and took the dragger with four people and 42,000 pounds of fish aboard on tow. It pulled them across the Columbia River bar into Astoria, Oregon. Towing the "Ashlyne" was estimated at a 70 to 80 miles round trip and 110 tons. That would make it close to the max towing capacity of the 47-MLBs, which is 150 tons. Being that close to the towing capacity made fuel consumption a concern. The large volume of water that moves out on an ebb tide across deep water bars such as the Columbia River bar and the struggle to operate a 47-MLB in that environment was also of concern. That same environment however has little effect on the operation of the 52-MLBs due to the nature of their construction.
Report with photo:
On Dec 12 the "Pride of Kent" was still docked at Pier 9 in Calais, where he had docked after the grounding. The ferry suffered damaged to a propeller shaft and had slight water ingress at two points of the hull. The ship was to be repaired in Dunkirk. It left the port of Calais on Dec 12 at 3 p.m. and headed to Dunkirk, where she docked at the Damen Shiprepair Yard at 6.30 p.m. The hull was to be examined in dry dock to assess the extent of the damage. There was no estimate how long this would take.
At the pier 1, which had been hit by the ferry, it will be necessary to repair two or three dolphins and a mooring bridge which was twisted by the shock of the impact.
The absence of the "Pride of Kent" did not cause too much trouble for cross-Channel traffic, as the "Pride of Burgund" will go to ten rotations a day.
In the afternoon of Dec 11 the port of Calais had to interrupt the traffic for a good hour in order to repair one of the two port tugs “Noroît” and "Suroît”, which had been damaged during the salvage of the "Pride of Kent". As the winds were still strong and changed direction, the help of both two tugs proved indispensable for any ship entering the port. The "Spirit of France" and the "Pride of Burgundy", which had had to wait for the completition of the repairs, were able to enter the port with the resumption of traffic.
Human failure was thought to have been the cause of the grouning of the "Hordaland" on Dec 7. The ferry was several hundred meters off course.It had been sailing between Årsnes and Varaldsøy in Kvinnherad and had 13 passengers and a crew of six on board who had to be evacuated. According to the ferry company Norled the navigator had been inattentive for several critical minutes.
The sunken "Pilot L 242" at Emsalö will be raised within the next two weeks once weather permits. The salvage will be carried out in cooperation with the Accident Investigation Center and the Finnish Environment Center. Both divers and a sufficiently large crane are needed to lift the boat, which was resting 20 to 30 meters deep south of Emsalö.
The "Stena Flavia", which usually runs between Nyhäshamn and Ventspils, has been affected by engine trouble after its departure from Nynäshamn on Dec 11, 2017, at 8.15 a.m. She was towed into the port of Södertäjle for repairs at 1 p.m. During the three days which were expected to get the damage fixed, she was replaced by the ferry "Urd" (IMO: 7826855). The "Stena Flavia" left the port again on Dec 15 at 9.20 a.m. and headed to Nynäshman, where she arrived at 12.45 a.m.
The broken "Kea Trader" on a reef off New Caledonia is creating more and more problems. Before the salvage company Ardent Maritime can start the wreck removal, further work is pending. Because the ship broke up in early November, areas inside the ship have now been exposed to seawater so fluids get into the water again and again. Prevention of pollution is thus a priority. From one cargo hold in the foreship all residues should now have been removed, in other areas, oil remains to be removed by skimming. In one hold there was also still oil soiled garbage. At the rear oily water must be pumped out of the engine room. Every day, surveillance flights over the wreck take place, but so far no traces of pollution have been discovered. However, photos taken from a helicopter chartered by Ardent on Dec 4 showed a deterioration in the port side situation. The work is a race against time, both fragments of the hull will have to be cleaned before dismantling could begin.
The "Rehua" was towed to the head of Otago Harbour by a competitor on Dec 10, 2017, after a salvage mission which lasted more than two days. The vessel had lost power on Dec 8 after its propeller became unexpectedly entangled in another company's fishing nets in the Southern Ocean.
Another Sanford vessel, the "San Enterprise" which was fishing in the area, towed the ship to the pilot station at the mouth of Otago Harbour about a distance of 400 km. From there, the Port Otago tugs "Arihi" and "Otago" pulled it to Dunedin for repairs. Divers were called to go under the ship to remove the net on Dec 11.
Report with photo: