Maritime Casualty News, May 2018

NTSB releases visual account of El Faro sinking

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released an illustrated digest of the El Faro sinking that distills thousands of pages of investigation materials into an easy-to-read format.

The 16-page document uses maps, diagrams, photos and text to show what happened during the ship’s final voyage in 2015, including the likely cause of a mechanical failure that caused the engine to shut down. It also shows likely sources of water ingress that spurred a fatal list.

Thirty-three people died when the ship sank on Oct. 1, 2015, near the Bahamas. No remains were recovered of the 28 Americans and five Polish workers aboard.

Investigations by the NTSB and U.S. Coast Guard yielded voluminous accounts of the incident, shedding light on the chain of events that led to the sinking. The NTSB illustrated digest uses key findings from these volumes to clearly show what authorities believe happened.

The digest can be viewed here:

Crewman lost after going overboard from cruise ship

A overboard crewman from the cruise ship MSC Seaside is missing and presumed dead after an extensive search.

Authorities said Michael Majaba, 37, of the Philippines went overboard from the seventh deck at about 0100 on May 16 while the ship was underway about eight nautical miles southeast of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The ship was en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from St. Maarten.

Crewmembers on the Malta-flagged cruise ship searched for Majaba, and the Coast Guard launched its own effort after being notified of the incident at about 0400. Coast Guard officials searched the air and water until about 2000 on May 16, covering more than 1,200 square nautical miles.

Two nearby vessels, the tanker Rose and the cruise ship Carnival Glory, diverted to assist with the search.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with family and friends of Majaba and the MSC Seaside crew during this difficult time,” Capt. Eric King, Sector San Juan commander, said in a prepared statement.

Coast Guard urges operators to create internal reporting systems

The Coast Guard has issued a safety alert urging vessel operators to create companywide internal reporting systems — particularly those that let employees anonymously report safety or compliance issues — and make sure crews know about them.

The alert, issued May 10, said such systems are intended to give employees a place to report issues without the risk of punishment. It suggests establishing non-retaliation policies making clear that employees who file reports in good faith will not face sanctions.

“Reporting policy should dictate that all company officials know that any attempt at retaliation against an employee who uses the reporting system or engages in any kind of whistleblowing would result in immediate disciplinary action,” the alert said. “Without such a policy, employees and others will likely be hesitant to report potential problems internally.”

Equally important, the alert said, is making sure employees are aware of these systems and are being trained about potential problems and how to report them. Shoreside personnel also must be prepared to handle the reports in a professional manner.

“Reporting will allow the owner and operator to become knowledgeable of issues related (to) vessel material safety, operational safety and environmental concerns,” the alert said. “This additional awareness allows management control and may reduce the impact of costs associated with repairs, environmental penalties, injuries and other circumstances before they become problematic to the owner and operator.”

To read the full report, which also breaks down reasons internal systems can fail, visit

Casualty flashback: May 1951

Five U.S. Navy sailors died after their seaplane tender sustained a steering system failure and collided with a loaded coal ship off Cape Henry, Va.

The collision between USS Valcour and Thomas Tracy occurred at 1024 on May 14 as the military ship was headed to sea for exercises and the coal ship was traveling north toward New York.

Valcour passed Thomas Tracy on its port side with about a quarter-mile between them. But, according to the Coast Guard report on the incident, Valcour “suffered a complete power failure with 6 or 7 degrees right rudder and swung starboard across the bow of Thomas Tracy, which could not avoid the collision."

The collier hit the military vessel aft near the engine room. A gas tank on Valcour ruptured and caused a large fireball that spread to Thomas Tracy’s deck and forepeak. That ship returned to port under its own power.

Valcour’s captain issued an abandon-ship order as the flames intensified. Initial reports from the Navy suggested 11 men died and 16 more were injured, although the Coast Guard's final report indicated five sailors on the ship died. Everyone aboard Thomas Tracy survived.

By Professional Mariner Staff