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El Faro: NTSB findings so far, EL Faro's boilers needed servicing

Discussion in 'YachtForums Yacht Club' started by Capt J, Oct 20, 2015.

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  1. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    To sum it up, it was found that both boilers needed servicing right before the ship set sail on this voyage. Also, welders and machinists were working on the vessel to prepare it for it's overhaul or refit over many voyages including it's last voyage.

    http://www.news4jax.com/news/ntsb-el-faros-boilers-needed-service/35943024

    NTSB: El Faro's boilers needed service
    Investigators release update on tragedy that killed 33 crew members

    Author: Stacey Readout, Executive Producer of Digital Content, sreadout@wjxt.com
    Published On: 1 h Updated 45 m
    Print

    El Faro investigation continues
    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -
    The National Transportation Safety Board issued another report on the El Faro tragedy Tuesday, saying a recent inspection recommended service to both boilers.

    IMAGES: NTSB investigation of El Faro tragedy

    An annual inspection of El Faro was completed by U.S. Coast Guard inspectors in San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 6, 2015.

    In June 2015, an American Bureau of Shipping surveyor examined and tested the main, auxiliary and emergency systems and found them to be satisfactory.

    The operator, TOTE Maritime, told investigators El Faro was scheduled to be removed from the route between Jacksonville and San Juan and redeployed to the West Coast where it would operate between Washington state and Alaska.

    In August, in order to prepare for this change, TOTE began making modifications to the vessel. Welders and machinists performed these modifications over many voyages, including the voyage where the El Faro sank in the Atlantic Ocean.

    On September 11, 2015, TOTE received permission from the Coast Guard to shut down one of the ship's two boilers so it could be inspected by an independent boiler service company during a voyage between San Juan and Jacksonville.

    As a result of the inspection, the boiler service company recommended service to both boilers during an upcoming drydock period that had already been scheduled for November 6.

    The boiler was returned to service following the inspection.

    Interviews of relief crew and company management indicated that onboard safety drills were consistently conducted on a weekly basis. These included lifeboat drills for all crew members to ensure that all on board understood their responsibilities in an emergency.

    Investigators interviewed two pilots that had guided El Faro in and out of the Port of Jacksonville. Both reported that the vessel handled similarly to other vessels of its size and type.

    The vessel’s terminal manager reported that El Faro met stability criteria when it left Jacksonville.

    The company’s procedures called for some cargo on the ship to be “double lashed” regardless of the weather expected to be encountered during the voyage. The vessel stevedores reported that prior to El Faro's departure on the accident voyage, the cargo was secured in accordance with those procedures.

    Timeline

    Before El Faro departed Jacksonville, Tropical Storm Joaquin was predicted to become a hurricane and a marine hurricane warning was issued by the National Hurricane Center at 5 p.m. on September 29.

    At about 8:15 p.m. that night, El Faro departed Jacksonville for San Juan, Puerto Rico.

    At 1:12 p.m. on September 30, the captain emailed a company safety official that he intended to take a route south of the predicted path of the hurricane and would pass about 65 miles from its center.

    In an advisory issued at 2 a.m. on October 1, the National Hurricane Center predicted seas of 30 feet with sustained winds of 64 knots (74 mph), increasing to 105 knots (121 mph) as the El Faro approached the wall of the eye of the hurricane.

    In a recorded satellite phone call to the company’s emergency call center at 7 a.m., the captain told the call center operator that he had a marine emergency.

    He reported that there was a hull breach, a scuttle had blown open, and that there was water in hold number 3.

    He also said that the ship had lost its main propulsion unit and the engineers could not get it going. The operator then connected the captain with the Designated Person Ashore (DPA).

    The DPA told investigators that the captain had communicated similar information to him that was provided to the call center operator, and also that the captain had estimated the height of the seas that El Faro was encountering to be 10 to 12 feet.

    The USCG received electronic distress alerts from three separate sources on El Faro: the Ship’s Security Alert System (SSAS), the Inmarsat-C Alert, and the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).

    According to electronic alert system data sent by the vessel at 7:17 a.m. on October 1, its last reported position was about 20 miles from the edge of the eye of the hurricane.

    The USCG did not have direct voice communications with El Faro, only electronic distress alerts.

    The Investigation: What's next?

    The NTSB investigators who traveled to Florida have returned to continue work on the investigation from NTSB headquarters in Washington.

    The NTSB contracted with the U.S. Navy to locate the ship, document the wreckage on the sea floor and recover the voyage data recorder.

    The USNS Apache, a fleet ocean tug, was outfitted with specialized equipment for this mission, and departed Little Creek, Virginia on October 19.

    In addition to the Navy crew, the NTSB investigator-in-Charge, Tom Roth-Roffy, is on Apache with representatives from the USCG, TOTE and ABS, all parties to the NTSB investigation.

    The Apache is estimated to arrive at the last known position of El Faro on Saturday, October 24, to begin the search for the ship and to recover the voyage data recorder. Once the search operation begins, it is expected to take at least two weeks.

    Updates on the search for the vessel and the accident investigation will be issued as circumstances warrant, according to the NTSB.

    Copyright 2015 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  2. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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  3. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    That'll be no help to the ambulance chaser who's already filed suit against the company and the deceased captain. I've never heard the term "scuttle" as a noun that I can recall. What is that? My guess is some sort of drain in the hold, but I'd like more accurate info if anyone knows.
  4. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    When a company shows disregard for it's employees, I don't call that an ambulance chaser.
  5. leeky

    leeky Senior Member

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  6. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    That's not what I read, I'll leave that debate to the lawyers however. Sorry, but when you start a lawsuit before the investigation begins, that's an ambulance chaser in my book
  7. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    Let's try to keep this thread open and on topic.
  8. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    Agreed. In fact maybe we should walk away from it until more info comes in.

    Thank you Leeky. Know them well. Just never heard the term. Always just referred to them as hatches. The context had me thinking it was something else. I like days when I learn.
    .
  9. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    I don't know if they will have anymore info. The only hope is finding the ship and it's condition. The black box would be a real bonus. But the depth is a major challenge and so is the time frame to retrieve the black box in working condition. It's a big search area in very deep water.
  10. K1W1

    K1W1 Senior Member

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    Once a hatch ( scuttle)has been breached the end can get very messy indeed.

    The bit I am posting below was taken from Wikipedia and refers to the largest British ship ever lost.

    The formal investigation commenced on 2 April 2000. It concluded that the ship sank because of structural failure and absolved the crew of any responsibility.


    Evidence from the underwater surveys showed that the closing appliances for nine ventilator openings in the bow section of the ship were missing; it was concluded that this had allowed seawater to flood into the ship and cause it to trim down by the bow. This adverse forward trim enabled storm force waves to batter the foremost cargo hold hatch covers causing them to collapse and the forward cargo hold to then flood with sea water. The same process was repeated on the number two and number three cargo holds. The additional weight of seawater, coupled with the heavy seas during Typhoon Orchid, caused the main hull to suffer a catastrophic structural collapse and the vessel to founder.
  11. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

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    The thread title seems to be sensationalist as it implies that a critical piece of information has just been uncovered.

    "On September 11, 2015, TOTE received permission from the Coast Guard to shut down one of the ship's two boilers so it could be inspected by an independent boiler service company during a voyage between San Juan and Jacksonville. As a result of the inspection, the boiler service company recommended service to both boilers during an upcoming drydock period that had already been scheduled for November 6. The boiler was returned to service following the inspection."

    All that says is that the service contractor was onboard to define the scope of boiler work that was already planned. What would be interesting, and possibly have some meaning, is if TOTE did NOT plan to perform any boiler "service" during the scheduled yard period. Boilers live a hard life and there is always something needing "service" from brickwork to economizer cleaning or a valve repacked. That piece of information is no more "critical" than if a memo was found that the galley soap dispenser needed a new gasket.

    A steam plant is a very complex arrangement of complex parts. There is always something that needs attention, leaks, makes funny noises, or might be described in an evaluation as needing to be serviced at some point in the future. It is the nature of the thing. Steam plants are very reliable and will operate satisfactorily with some parts bypassed or placed in manual control because of any number of reasons. I would go so far as to say that a steam plant is more reliable than a fully automated motor plant. Boilers can run with leaking or plugged tubes. If the contractor who stood to make money thought the boiler was OK to run for another 1500 hours then it is fair to assume that "service" meant just that and only that.

    It doesn't mean there is a headline or even a story when a journalist finds out that the gland seal steam regulator or some other component constantly needed tweaking, was operated manually, or some other of the tens of thousands of parts needed a rebuild when the plant was scheduled for a shut down or time allowed.

    There probably will be lots of juicy details by the time the investigation is complete but to call this nano sized and very routine piece of information a "finding" is at the least, sensationalist and its use in the context of a headline should make readers question the intent of the headline writers, not the content.

    Slow news day, need to bump the story to keep readership or viewers hooked? Reader beware.
  12. chesapeake46

    chesapeake46 Senior Member

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    This morning on the TV news they reported that the Captain of El Faro's float plan was to pass 65 NM East of the storm. A retired sea Captain was quoted as saying he thought that was irresponsible and that he personally always stayed 300 NM from any such storm.
    When I googled their website just now for citation, there was no mention of that report. It was on Action News, Philadelphia.
    I thought it was ironic that I heard that report this morning and Capt J's post # 1 was the first thing I read this morning.
  13. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    Next news won't be until the USNS Apache reaches the site and hopefully locates the El Faro. To date all we know is that a scuttle had blown open, there was water in hold number 3, the ship had lost its main propulsion unit and the engineers could not get it going. The ship went down taking all (33) hands to their grave. Additionally the ship had apparently passed recent inspections, and (to me) the captain acted prudently in his course selection. To me it sounds like "Murphy" conspired with a hurricane to create a tragic situation. That's life and death on the water.
    Yes the 2nd part of the thread title could (should) have been left out, but let's not make something of nothing. Instead let's just wait for the report from Apache.
  14. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    Did he happen to mention whether he was referring to the east (strong) or west (weak) side? Big difference. Was he talking about a cat. 1 or a cat. 4. Again big difference. Did he even look at where a 300 nm diversion to the west would have put the El Faro or was he suggesting she take an 18 hour diversion to the east, the more likely direction the hurricane would head? I consider that statement irresponsible, and the Monday morning quarterbacking of a has-been looking for his 15 minutes of fame or a few dollars from a lawyer.
  15. K1W1

    K1W1 Senior Member

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    This text is in the report linked to above.

    At 1:12 p.m. on September 30, the captain emailed a company safety official that he intended to take a route south of the predicted path of the hurricane and would pass about 65 miles from its center.
  16. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    65NM from the eye of a hurricane and you still have at least 80% of the maximum winds. The Hurricane took the exact path that it was projected to do, ever since it was a TS. It was projected to go to that area of the Bahamas and make a sharp turn and go N NE. It was also a CAT1 and building shortly after the El Faro left Jacksonville, look at the time line on the NTSB link. The Captain of the El Faro piloted the ship pretty much almost directly into the Hurricane and the projected path it always had.
  17. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    Which I don't/cannot seem to understand the Captain's logic. 65NM from the eye of a hurricane is still in the middle of a Hurricane. The Hurricane was moving West and a touch NW up until the El Faro went down. The El Faro was moving South/Southeast and coming from the North. Basically, the Captain was intending to outrun the storm or cross it's intended path before the Hurricane got there. But even 65 miles from the eye, the seas were projected to be 30'. The Hurricane increased the speed it was moving from the 5-6 knots it was travelling at to 12 knots and closed the gap and the ship basically was on an intercept path with the storm. The safe route would've been to follow the Florida coastline.

    "In an advisory issued at 2:00 am EDT on Oct. 1, the National Hurricane Center predicted seas of 30 feet with sustained winds of 64 knots (74 mph), increasing to 105 knots (121 mph) as the El Faro approached the wall of the eye of the hurricane.

    According to electronic alert system data sent by the vessel at 7:17 am EDT on Oct. 1, its last reported position was about 20 miles from the edge of the eye of the hurricane."
    http://www.ntsb.gov/news/press-releases/Pages/PR20151020.aspx
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2015
  18. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    Once the captain made the decision to take the regular direct route on the east side of the bahamas, he basically trapped himself and started a race against the storm try to squeeze thru. It s not much different from those people who try to squeeze thru rail road crossing gates with a train barreling down, only to have their car stall.

    To the captain's defense the storm was only moving at 5kts and at the time of that email the storm was 70 kts forecast to be 85kts the next morning. unfortunately the forecast was off and the next day by the time they declared an emergency winds were 105 kts.

    http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2015/JOAQUIN.shtml

    There are too lessons to be learned from this tragedy... First, don't play chicken with a hurricane. Second, while the NHC track forecast are usually very accurate, intensity forecasts are not. This was the case with Joaquin and dozens of storms in the past few years. Always always always plan for a stronger than forecast storms (unless of course the forecast makes it very clear than the system wil encounter strong shear)

    This is true whether you are running a 1000' ship or simply trying to deal with a small boat at your local marina
  19. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    Not true..look at the link I posted in my previous post.the storm was moving WSW, almost SW. On the 30th at 5 am it was at 25.4 N and forecasted to stay pretty much close to 25N. 24 hours later, it was at 23.4 N when El Faro sunk... Big difference. That's another thing to keep in mind when making hurricane plans, slow moving storms often behave more erratically than those moving thru well established steering currents.
  20. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    I find these five paragraphs very revealing.

    Before El Faro departed Jacksonville, Tropical Storm Joaquin was predicted to become a hurricane and a marine hurricane warning was issued by the National Hurricane Center’s Advisory #8 at 5:00 pm EDT on Sept. 29.

    At about 8:15 pm EDT on Sept. 29, El Faro departed Jacksonville, Fla., for San Juan, Puerto Rico.

    At 1:12 pm EDT on Sept. 30, the captain emailed a company safety official that he intended to take a route south of the predicted path of the hurricane and would pass about 65 miles from its center.

    In an advisory issued at 2:00 am EDT on Oct. 1, the National Hurricane Center predicted seas of 30 feet with sustained winds of 64 knots (74 mph), increasing to 105 knots (121 mph) as the El Faro approached the wall of the eye of the hurricane.

    In a recorded satellite phone call to the company’s emergency call center at 7:00 am EDT, the captain told the call center operator that he had a marine emergency.
    Translated: There was a hurricane warning over 3 hours ago. "Oh, don't worry, we'll pass 65 miles from it's center". Update: 30 ft seas 105 knot wins and you're approaching the eye. "We shall not be deterred. Sticking to the plan." Then, "Oops...we have an emergency".
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