Tag Archives: maritime

Man Overboard: Prevention and Recovery

Approximately 31% of all deaths on commercial fishing vessels result from individuals falling overboard. To help prevent these deaths, the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) has produced a video titled “Man Overboard: Prevention and Recovery”.  This video is designed to help those onboard commercial fishing vessels learn how to prevent individuals from falling overboard – and how to successfully recover someone who does fall overboard.

This excellent training video is at this link.


A recent article in the Seattle Times titled “Recent breakdowns heighten concern about state’s fragile ferry fleet” chronicles  the challenges with  maintaining a fleet of  ferries that are, on average, 33 years old. Lynne Griffith, the Chief of the Washington State Ferries was quoted as saying “Our fleet of vessels is in operation 20 to 22 hours every day, so the window of opportunities for crews to do maintenance work is small.” That is not an acceptable answer when the lives of their passengers are at stake.

According to this article ferries missed 83 trips last year because of mechanical problems. Many of these mechanical problems are preventable such as the recent problem on the ferry TACOMA in which a wire came loose. Ms. Griffith was quoted as saying “All they had to do was tighten down the screws.”

She is correct – the screws do need to be tightened down – on the Washington State Ferry system.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has said that Safety Management Systems can help prevent marine casualties like the two that occurred in New York: The 2003 casualty involving the ferry ANDREW J. BARBERI that killed 11 passengers; and the 2013 casualty involving the SEASTREAK ferry that injured 80 people, 4 of them critically.

Section 610 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 gave the Coast Guard the authority to require operators of passenger vessels, such as the Washington State Ferry System, establish a “Safety Management System” for their vessels.

The statute specifically states:

‘‘(c) In prescribing regulations for passenger vessels and small passenger vessels, the Secretary (Coast Guard) shall consider—

‘‘(1) the characteristics, methods of operation, and nature of the service of these vessels; and

‘‘(2) with respect to vessels that are ferries, the sizes of the ferry systems within which the vessels operate.’’

It is time for the Coast Guard to prescribe, audit, and enforce requirements to implement the 2010 law and require passenger vessels in the United States to operate and maintain effective Safety Management Systems. Safety Management is good business – it will also improve the reliability of these vessels. The safety system in place clearly has not been effective if it has resulted in 83 trips being missed due to mechanical breakdowns.

No more passengers should be injured or killed because the operators fail to adequately manage their vessels and personnel.


On June 8, 2014 off the coast of England a dredge vessel SHOREWAY ran over and sank the 32 foot recreational sailboat ORCA resulting in the death of one of the 2 individuals on the ORCA.  Commercial vessels and recreational vessels need to safely share the same waterways. The investigation of this casualty by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) of the British Government found that the operators of both vessels in this casualty should have been more aware of each other on the water.  The SHOREWAY did not see the ORCA and the ORCA misjudged the speed of the ORCA.

MAIB has published a 2 page flyer to help recreational vessel operators better understand these challenges – including photographs showing how fast a commercial vessel can overcome their position. The flyer is at this link.

The key findings of their report are as follows:

  • “It is essential that all vessels maintain a proper lookout at all times. Had the crew of either SHOREWAY or ORCA done so, this collision could have been avoided.
  • “Leisure boat users should never assume that they have been seen by other vessels, nor should they assume that the other vessels will always take avoiding action. Due to the good visibility, the officer on watch on SHOREWAY was not using his radar and had not seen the target of ORCA that had been visible on his screen for 11 minutes before the collision.
  • “Leisure sailors need to be particularly aware of closing speeds between their own vessels and other vessels. In this case, SHOREWAY was travelling at 12.9kts but many types of vessels, including ferries, cruise ships and container ships, regularly sail at speeds over 25kts and, as a result, distances that initially appear sufficient can be reduced surprisingly quickly.”

There are lessons in this report for all mariners.

The complete MAIB report can be found at this link.