Experts Weigh Training Factor into Sewol Tragedy

By Greg Trauthwein
Thursday, May 15, 2014
As master, I can manage drills effectively, but if I do not take it to the final phase of actually giving the order to abandon ship, then I am ill-prepared. And even when safely moored alongside my home port dock, when I give that order, it still gives me shivers! Thomas L. Bushy, Massachusetts Maritime Academy

While the investigation is still fresh regarding the sinking and the tragic loss of life of the South Korean ferry Sewol, early reports point to a multitude of potential problems, including a critical breakdown among the crew. As work continues to secure the ship and recover the remaining dead onboard, Maritime Reporter & Engineering News reached out to maritime training and education experts for insights on that sector’s role in helping to reduce the risk of disaster at sea.

By now the grim details of the sinking and tremendous loss of life aboard the South Korean ferry are well-known, and the name “Sewol” will live in infamy in the maritime history books. Though all maritime mishaps with loss of life are tragic, and there have been far bigger wrecks with many more dead, this one struck a particular nerve in that of the 476 passengers and crew onboard, 339 were children and teachers on a high school outing for what was planned as a routine sailing from the Port of Incheon to the southern island of Jeju. It will be months if not years before the final chapter on Sewol is written, and perhaps the tale will never fully be told. But in the immediate aftermath, more than 300 remain missing and presumed dead and Captain Lee Joon-seok and many of his crew are in jail, there are more questions than answers. With early focus and outrage set squarely on the actions of captain and crew, we focus here on the role of the maritime training and education community in mitigating the risk of future maritime casualties.
“This case certainly looks like humans’ failed to manage their stability properly, may have decided to overload, or maybe did not secure cargo properly,” said Thomas L. Bushy, Vice President of Marine Operations, Master, T.S. Kennedy, Massachusetts Maritime Academy. “But since the investigation is in its early stages, it is too soon to place blame only on the humans.”

Human Error

In the aftermath, with a Third Mate at the helm and the reported order for passengers to stay in their cabins as the ship foundered, and with the ship’s captain among the first to make it to shore safely, it would appear that the human element was indeed a contributing factor.  “News reports mentioned the communications with shore emergency agencies - and suggested they were asking for help in the decision to abandon ship:  if true, this is unacceptable,” said Bushy. “I am saddened that the captain and crew made bad decisions, then saved themselves before doing more to help the passengers.”
“It has been proven that almost 60% of all accidents at sea are attributed to Human Error,” said Captain Jeff Cowen, who is a graduate of the California Maritime Academy with a diverse seagoing career, working today with the State of California’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response. “Fatigue has proven to be the greatest reason for human error; was the third mate rested before taking the duty of watch stander? Why wasn’t the Captain on the bridge during restricted visibility? Resting perhaps?”
“Human error seems to be the catch phrase used when no other explanation is immediately forthcoming,” said Captain Ted Morley, COO, MPT. “While it is true that it is very often the underlying cause of an accident, it is important to put it into context and determine what led to, or allowed, the human error to exist. Training, education, regulation, equipment and experience are all designed to minimize the human error factors.”
The Technology Solution
While technology in the maritime sector is arguably more capable than ever to help avoid accidents, the fact is that maritime accidents will always occur.
A current mantra in the maritime and offshore circles is “risk mitigation,” and to this end it is agreed that there is no there is no technology can ever remove all risk from an maritime operations.
“Emphasis must be placed upon looking out the window,” said Cowen. “What happens if the GPS, ECDIS or Radar goes out? Ships must still be able to navigate safely. At the bottom of U.S. charts there is a warning: Mariner should not to rely solely on any one means of navigation.”  MPT’s Morely agrees.
“ECDIS, ARPA and AIS, for example have all greatly enhanced the amount of information that a watch stander has, but they have also increased the amount of time that person spends looking at all that information. A balance between technology and first person observation is needed to ensure total situational awareness.”
“Technology and training are only two components though, as issues like crew size as compared to vessel size, ship’s schedule, and the ability of the master and crew to act effectively are all components that need to be looked at,” Morley continued. “We are seeing an increasing amount of vessels with a decreasing pool of experienced mariners sailing on ever decreasing crew sizes. Training and technology can’t always take up the slack of smaller crews.”

Industry Collaboration
While it is foolhardy to expect zero accidents in the maritime sector, many agree that emphasis on repetition in training and mixing new technology with traditional maritime skills are the ingredients to best mitigate the risk of accident.  
“One of the things we stress in all of our classes here at MPT is the application of the training in real world situations. For example, we integrate our DP training with full mission simulation; this forces the student to see where that particular piece of equipment and training fits with the big picture,” said Morley. “We also try very hard to have ‘total team training’ where we see bridge officers communicating with engineering officers, again creating an atmosphere in training that helps promote utilization of resources and sharing of information. One of the best ways to avoid human error is to simply have more people informed. Communication amongst the crew, and a willingness to work as a member of the team are vital for ensuring vessel safety.”
“It is important that new mariners remember that the new technology does not replace the skills that should be inherent to every mariner,” said Captain Ted Morley, COO, MPT. “The ability of a deck officer to navigate and plot a course is not replaced by the ability of an ECDIS unit. It is also important to teach the limitations of the technology, not just the abilities of it.” But where skills and technology ends, Morley ponders if there should be more: “The Sewol is the 100th passenger vessel lost since 2002,  and there seems to be a trend to handle all of the incidents as separate and unique. This was not the case in the tanker industry where we saw sweeping legislation and design changes after the Exxon Valdez incident. I believe we need to look at the passenger and RoRo ferry industry and evaluate every component, from the design elements of the newest super ships right down to the manning, training and staffing of the crew.”
Mass Maritime’s Bushy summarized the importance of repeated training perhaps best. “What actions are practiced aboard ship to keep skill levels high to unplanned events?  Drills, drill and more drills,” said Bushy. “No ship should go to sea without knowing each person aboard knows how to recognize an emergency situation, and react to notification of one. This begins with knowing where you are aboard, how to get out, how to wear a life jacket properly, where to muster for accountability and loading of survival crafts. The officers and crew must know these skills cold, and can accomplish them in the dark with a force 8 wind howling. They must know every mistake an inexperienced crew member or passenger will make, and correct them. These skills of survival apply to all officers and crew - from the OS up to the Master. As master, I can manage drills effectively, but if I do not take it to the final phase of actually giving the order to abandon ship, then I am ill-prepared. And even when safely moored alongside my home port dock, when I give that order, it still gives me shivers.”
 

(As published in the May 2014 edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News - http://magazines.marinelink.com/Magazines/MaritimeReporter)

  • Emphasis must be placed upon looking out the window.  What happens if the GPS goes out or ECDIS or Radar? Ships must still be able to navigate safely. At the bottom of U.S. charts there is a warning: Mariner should not rely solely on any one means of navigation.  Captain Jeff Cowan is a graduate of the  California Maritime Academy with a diverse seagoing career

    Emphasis must be placed upon looking out the window. What happens if the GPS goes out or ECDIS or Radar? Ships must still be able to navigate safely. At the bottom of U.S. charts there is a warning: Mariner should not rely solely on any one means of navigation. Captain Jeff Cowan is a graduate of the California Maritime Academy with a diverse seagoing career

  • Sewol is the 100th passenger vessel lost since 2002, and there seems to be a trend to handle all of the incidents as separate and unique. This was not the case in the tanker industry where we saw sweeping legislation and design changes after the Exxon Valdez incident. I believe we need to look at the passenger and RoRo ferry industry and evaluate every component: from the design elements of the newest super ships right down to the manning, training, and staffing of the crew.  Capt. Ted Morley, U

    Sewol is the 100th passenger vessel lost since 2002, and there seems to be a trend to handle all of the incidents as separate and unique. This was not the case in the tanker industry where we saw sweeping legislation and design changes after the Exxon Valdez incident. I believe we need to look at the passenger and RoRo ferry industry and evaluate every component: from the design elements of the newest super ships right down to the manning, training, and staffing of the crew. Capt. Ted Morley, U

Maritime Reporter May 2015 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Education/Training

New EU Shipping CO2 Monitoring System

According to a new EU regulation, ship operators will be required to monitor, report and verify (MRV) CO2 emissions.     José Inácio Faria, Member, Group of

UKHO ‘Living with ECDIS’ Seminars at Nor-Shipping

Seminar to include information on updated IHO ENC Standards   The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) has announced the details of its free-to-attend ECDIS Seminars at Nor-Shipping,

Training: Cutting Costs While Remaining Cutting Edge

Businesses are operating in tough economic times, with budgets being significantly cut during the current industry downturn. Unfortunately, when lowering costs is a key priority,

Passenger Vessels

New Ferry Safety Initiative from RINA

Italy-based classification society RINA informs it has launched a ferry safety initiative.    The Asset Integrity Management scheme for ro-pax ferries covers fire risk mitigation,

Scandlines Orders Ferry Battery System

Corvus Energy announces the signing of marine Energy Storage System (ESS) contract with Scandlines Denmark ApS; world’s largest battery hybrid electric fleet orders additional 2.

Roxtec Sees Rise in Cruise Ship Repair Work

Manchester cable safety seal manufacturer Roxtec has reported increased demand for its cruise ship cable and pipe seals.   The firm has seen a 67 percent rise

News

Hoegh LNG's Bond Issue

Hoegh LNG (HLNG) has successfully completed the issuance of a USD 130 million senior unsecured bond in the Nordic bond market with maturity date expected to be 5 June 2020.

Rieber offloads Polar Prince

GC Rieber Shipping has entered into an agreement to sell subsea vessel "Polar Prince", which the company had built in 1999.   The transaction gives GC Rieber

NordLB Back to Profit

Although the crisis is not over in all segments, Germany's second-largest marine lender, Nord LB, said its shipping loan portfolio turned a corner in the first

Coast Guard

6,000 Gallons of Diesel Spilt in Alaskan Gulf

Unified Command responding to cleanup aboard vessel in Seldovia, Alaska   A Unified Command consisting of representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of the Interior,

US Orders Owner to Clean Up Ruptured Pipeline

Federal order ensures continued action on Santa Barbara County oil spill   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard issued a joint federal

Suppression of Random Drug Test Results: A Bad and Unnecessary Decision

Last September, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) unsettled much of the U.S. maritime industry when he dismissed with prejudice a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) action

Maritime Safety

Iran, Oman Sign Maritime Agreement

Iran's Mehr news agency said that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi have announced that the two countries have agreed

6,000 Gallons of Diesel Spilt in Alaskan Gulf

Unified Command responding to cleanup aboard vessel in Seldovia, Alaska   A Unified Command consisting of representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of the Interior,

IRS Introduces Ship Construction Standards

The International Register of Shipping has submitted goal-based new ship construction standards for verification audit by the International Maritime Organisation.

Ferries

Offshore O&G: Weathering the Storm

Vessels are stacked as Gulf oil operators retrench and day rates fall. In the Gulf of Mexico, vessels serving offshore oil-and-gas exploration and production are

New Ferry Safety Initiative from RINA

Italy-based classification society RINA informs it has launched a ferry safety initiative.    The Asset Integrity Management scheme for ro-pax ferries covers fire risk mitigation,

Alewijnse Success at Damen Shiprepair Dunkerque

Electrical system integrator Alewijnse Marine Systems is celebrating the first anniversary of delivering electrical services and maintenance to vessels at Damen Shiprepair Dunkerque.

 
 
Maritime Standards Naval Architecture Navigation Pipelines Pod Propulsion Port Authority Salvage Ship Electronics Ship Repair Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.1895 sec (5 req/sec)