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Old 05-10-2015, 10:03   #61
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Re: Safety of Ships' Lifeboats in Major Storms

update...:Coast Guard: ‘El Faro’ Likely Sank in Hurricane – One Body Spotted, Heavily Damaged Lifeboat Found


MV El Faro. Photo: MarineTraffic.com/
MV El Faro. Photo: MarineTraffic.com/Capt. William Hoey


The U.S. Coast Guard said Monday that the American cargo ship El Faro likely sank after sailing into the path of Hurricane Joaquin on Thursday.

The Coast Guard has also confirmed that search crews had spotted a body in a survival suit and an empty, heavily damaged lifeboat – both believed to be from the missing ship.

The Coast Guard told gCaptain that a rescue swimmer entered the water and confirmed that the person in the survival suit was deceased but, due to conditions and the ongoing active search for survivors, recovery of the body was not possible. The lifeboat was also not recovered, but markings on the boat indicated that it was from El Faro.

An active search for El Faro’s 33 crew members continued off Crooked Island in the Bahamas on Monday after already covering 70,000 square nautical miles since communication was lost with the ship and its crew. The search is no longer focussed on locating the ship.

Communication with the 790-foot roll-on/roll-off containership was lost Thursday morning (Oct. 1) after El Faro’s Master reported via satellite notification received at 7:20 EST that the vessel was beset by Hurricane Joaquin while en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville, Florida. The notification said that the ship had lost propulsion and had taken on water, but the issue was contained and being managed by the crew. The notification added that the ship had a 15 degree list.

The vessel departed Jacksonville bound for San Juan on September 29th with 391 containers, 294 trailers and cars. At the time of El Faro’s departure, the vessel’s officers and crew were monitoring what was then Tropical Storm Joaquin.

Hurricane Joaquin is pictured off the east coast of the United States in this handout photo provided by NOAA, taken October 1, 2015. Search-and-rescue teams on Sunday located debris appearing to belong to the cargo ship El Faro, which went missing in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin with 33 mostly American crew members aboard more than three days ago, the U.S. Coast Guard and the ship's owner said.


El Faro is owned and operated by TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, a division of TOTE Maritime. The sailing was authorized by TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico. The crew are qualified members of the Seaman’s International Union and the American Maritime Officers (SIU and AMO), TOTE said.

A of Sunday night, the search for the El Faro and its 33 crewmembers – comprised of 28 Americans and 5 Polish nationals – covered 70,000 nautical square miles. On Saturday, a life ring was recovered in the search area and confirmed to be from the El Faro. Later on Sunday, search crews found a debris field covering 225 nautical miles that consisted of life jackets, life rings, containers and an oil sheen, although the debris had not been confirmed from the El Faro as of Sunday night but was said to be consistent with the missing ship.

A fact sheet provided by TOTE said the El Faro was equipped with two lifeboats, one of each side of the ship. The boats are open-top type (vs enclosed) and each certified to carry 43 people. One is propelled by manual power and the other by a small diesel engine. The ship also carries five life rafts that normally need to be manually launched.

Weather has hampered search efforts off Bahamas since Thursday, when Hurricane Joaquin, centered directly over the search area, grew to a dangerous Category 4 storm with winds in the search area reported to be 140 miles per hour and sea conditions of 20 to 40-feet. Joaquin strengthened a bit Saturday as it moved slowly northeast towards Bermuda, but as of Sunday the storm was downgraded to a Category 2 storm with winds of 110 miles per hour.

Coast Guard assets involved in the search since Thursday have included two HC-130 Hercules airplanes, the cutters Northland, Sexton and Resolute, and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter. The search has also involved the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy and several tugboats contracted by El Faro‘s owner, TOTE Maritime.

El Faro was built in 1975 and was updated in 2006. The ship is one of two TOTE vessels sailing the Jones Act U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico trade route. TOTE Maritime also has an Alaskan division, TOTE Maritime Alaska, which operates two Orca-class ships sailing between Tacoma, Washington and Anchorage, Alaska. El Faro, formerly Northern Lights, was originally built for the Alaskan trade and served the trade route for a number of years.

TOTE says El Faro is a well maintained vessel that is classed by ABS and regularly inspected by class and port state, and has regularly been updated throughout its life.

“It is a sturdily built vessel in good condition, and meets all standards and certifications regardless of its age,” TOTE Maritime said on its website.
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Old 05-10-2015, 10:11   #62
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Re: Safety of Ships' Lifeboats in Major Storms

Hmm. So maybe they attempted to launch the boat and it was destroyed in the process. Maybe got tangled in her rigging or maybe slammed against the ships side during deployment.

Very unfortunate.

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Old 05-10-2015, 11:29   #63
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Re: Safety of Ships' Lifeboats in Major Storms

Ann-
You'd really have to chase down details. The bottom line is that shippers almost always try to cut every possible corner in order to make profits. Retrofitting a pair of big orange "torpedo tubes" for the sealed life boats? $$$$. Rigging things so the piles of cargo cubes on deck couldn't fall overboard and smash life boats? $$$$. Giving conservative sailing instructions to avoid storms? $$$$ Having adequate crew to avoid fatigue, having adequate testing and redundancy of safety equipment? $$$$.


With few exceptions, freight companies figure sailors are one of the cheapest and most easily replaceable parts of the business.


No AIS track? No EPRIBs (plural!), no radio officer keeping contacts?


This is why some folks chose to dig ditches or empty port-o-sans instead of going to sea.
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Old 05-10-2015, 11:46   #64
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Re: Safety of Ships' Lifeboats in Major Storms

So tempting and easy to armchair captain these tragic events.

My guess would be that given the weather/sea state circumstances, the safest place to be was onboard until she unexpectedly rolled. At that time everyone who was four stories above the ocean, found themselves an equal distance under the surface.

My prayers go out to the families and for those that may yet be found alive.
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Old 05-10-2015, 16:56   #65
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Re: Safety of Ships' Lifeboats in Major Storms

From tonight's Nooze...


Apparently the crux of the matter is that they lost propulsion for unstated reasons, and THAT left them unable to outrun, outmaneuver, or otherwise simply cope with the storm. Stacked cube carriers like that, just like modern ocean liners, are top-heavy and have so much windage they'll always wind up getting the worst in a storm.


If the captain had called for a mass rescue and abandoned ship the propulsion was lost, and IF they could have been evacuated (six or eight helo trips?!) or IF they had had survival "pods" instead of lifeboats...well, the owners would have still flogged him to death for abandoning their ship.


They were probably just fine until the propulsion was lost, and then SOL. Leaving the next question to be whether it was just "**** happens" or whether propulsion was lost because of cheapo maintenance issues.
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Old 05-10-2015, 19:49   #66
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Safety of Ships' Lifeboats in Major Storms

Stepping up into a lifeboat isn't just the motto for small vessels.

One casualty in a survival suit sends a grim message. I hope for a miracle for my kindred spirits.




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Old 05-10-2015, 20:48   #67
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Re: Safety of Ships' Lifeboats in Major Storms

Something to think about for any sailors contemplating sailing the open ocean during hurricane season. That ship was almost 800 feet long and huge in volume. Yet, a hurricane can sink that size of ship, without rescue possible during the hurricane.

The attached photo shows this hurricane Joaquin, near the Bahamas.
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Old 05-10-2015, 20:51   #68
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Re: Safety of Ships' Lifeboats in Major Storms

So for anyone that may be in the merchant marine or otherwise an expert I was wondering why the gumby suits don't have PLBs? It would seem like that would be a great help to the survival of a crew member who entered the water. If the rescuer knows the location of the MOB then time in the water should be greatly reduced. Is there something that makes a PLB for merchant mariners impractical or next to useless?
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Old 05-10-2015, 20:57   #69
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Re: Safety of Ships' Lifeboats in Major Storms

My heart goes out to all the families of those sailors.
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Old 05-10-2015, 21:07   #70
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Re: Safety of Ships' Lifeboats in Major Storms

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steady Hand View Post
Something to think about for any sailors contemplating sailing the open ocean during hurricane season. That ship was almost 800 feet long and huge in volume. Yet, a hurricane can sink that size of ship, without rescue possible during the hurricane.
Yeah, I've been thinking:
Don't carry containers on your deck !
Only go on a small boat so the wave forces will be lower.
Keep the water out.
Use a drogue.
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Old 05-10-2015, 21:14   #71
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Re: Safety of Ships' Lifeboats in Major Storms

El Faro has unusual (at least to me) supports under the deck to allow the deck to extend beyond the hull sides. This allows for more containers to be carried but they are up high. Not great for stability.

Aircraft carriers have decks extending like this (although no cargo above). And inshore ferries sometimes jut out a bit. But I can't recall seeing ocean going cargo ships designed this way. I wonder if the deck was widened at some point?

This would also seem to make lifeboat launching even more difficult. During launch, the lifeboat could get crushed under the deck extension as the ship rolled.
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Old 05-10-2015, 21:21   #72
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Re: Safety of Ships' Lifeboats in Major Storms

" Is there something that makes a PLB for merchant mariners impractical"
Add $400 per suit for 34 crew, $13,600 up front. Plus mounting/installing/deploying and repacking and maintenance. And then again, why bother? You don't take a solo swim in a gumby, "presumably" at least one epirb has triggered and a significant SAR response will follow.


On stepping up into a life raft, I'm a firm believer. But the lifepods that typically launch by dropping down and out of "torpedo tubes" are designed to use that gravity drop to build speed and launch them clear away from burning fuel, tumbling cargo cubes, and other hazards that may surround a ship or oil platform. Not at all the same as stepping up from a sparse deck on a sailboat, is it?


Also solves the problem of being unable to launch the life boats on the high side of a ship rolling over, which has always plagued life boats hung on davits. And solves the problem of "the boat is hanging way out there...I can't reach it" for the boats hanging away from the low side.
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Old 06-10-2015, 00:16   #73
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Re: Safety of Ships' Lifeboats in Major Storms

It's nice that people get to be Monday morning QB.....


At any rate, where would you mount free fall lifeboats on this ship? There isn't any place, it's a mid mounted house. Run from the house to the stern? That's asking for trouble. Take the open tops off and put an enclosed boat in the same spot and 33 people would be going home, a little worse for ware, but alive. You can launch enclosed boats from the stowed position with everyone inside and strapped in. They also have to be able to launch with a 20 list. Yes, that would have been a miserable 48 or so hours, but they would have had a sea anchor to keep them bow up and they would have had plenty of food and water. The tragic part is the governing bodies allow the grandfathering of safety rules on older vessels and this is the outcome. I can't wait to see what becomes of this.
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Old 06-10-2015, 03:09   #74
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Re: Safety of Ships' Lifeboats in Major Storms

On passing down Gladstone harbour yesterday, which is full of giant ore carriers, I noticed that there was a mix of davit mounted and free fall life boats. All were the fully enclosed type and the single stern mounted free fall type predominated. It appears one versus two would be cheaper.

The series of Maersks latest design container vessels of which the "EMMA MAERSK launched in 2006 have midships superstructures and port and starboard life boats. I wonder what are the advantages of midships superstructure vessels is, they appeared to be obsolete?
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Old 06-10-2015, 04:11   #75
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Re: Safety of Ships' Lifeboats in Major Storms

Quote:
Originally Posted by transmitterdan View Post
So for anyone that may be in the merchant marine or otherwise an expert I was wondering why the gumby suits don't have PLBs? It would seem like that would be a great help to the survival of a crew member who entered the water. If the rescuer knows the location of the MOB then time in the water should be greatly reduced. Is there something that makes a PLB for merchant mariners impractical or next to useless?
I find these questions getting more difficult to answer as I get less current from being out of the business. But as I recall, the safety features on a survival suit are: strobe light, whistle, inflatable collar and reflective tape. Buying and maintaining something like a plb for each suit would be very expensive.

A few years back I was working for a tour boat company, legislators were trying to implement lights for sheltered water life jackets at the time. At $16/light for 2000 life jackets that was a $32000 up front cross, but with a 4 year life cycle replacement, $8000/year increase to operating expenses plus labour. A tough hit for a seasonal tour operator. The industry lobbyed hard against it, I've since lost track of the battle, my guess is industry won.

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