The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its Safer Seas Digest 2022, highlighting the most important lessons learned from 29 maritime tragedies that took place in 2022.
afer Seas Digest 2022 detailed the lessons learned from 29 maritime tragedies involving capsizings, contact, collisions, fires, flooding and groundings.
Among the investigations, two of the casualties described, the Emmy Rose and the SEACOR Power, led to the loss of human life. Our investigations into these tragedies once again revealed the critical importance of personal locator beacons (PLBs) for seafarers. PLBs are widely available and relatively low-cost devices that the NTSB has recommended since 2017 for their ability to help locate mariners in distress, thereby increasing their chances of survival. Adding to the heartbreak is the knowledge that the 17 mariners lost on either the Emmy Rose or the SEACOR Power might be with us today had our PLB recommendation been implemented years ago.
According to NTSB, in 2022 the most prominent issues included the following:
- Containing Engine Room Fires
- Fire Prevention
- Importance of Personal Locator Technology
- Vessel Stability
- Proper Installation, Operation, and Maintenance of Electrical Equipment
- Sound Navigation Practice–Avoiding
- Overreliance on a Single Data Source
- Response to Loss of Steering and Propulsion
- Effective Communication
- Mooring System Arrangements
- Engine Repairs
- Hull Condition
#1 Containing engine room fires
Vessel crews may effectively contain engine room fires by securing the space’s ventilation and machinery fuel shutoffs, using installed fixed fire-extinguishing systems, stopping machinery, cooling boundaries, and communicating effectively.
#2 Fire prevention
Vessel owners, operators, and crews can prevent or mitigate the risk of fire in engine room spaces by paying close attention to potential heat or ignition
sources, and preparing and protecting the spaces accordingly. Engine exhaust surfaces should be insulated to prevent ignition of flammable liquids
or combustibles, and decks and the openings between them should be structurally fire protected to prevent the spread of fire.
Supervisory personnel should evaluate hot work areas to ensure affected spaces are prepared and protected for planned hot work in accordance with regulatory
guidelines, company policies, and marine chemist certificates. Additionally, crewmembers and personnel involved in hot work should be able to identify fire
hazards and take action to remove or mitigate risks.
#3 Importance of personal locator technology
Personal locator technology, such as a PLB or SEND, provides SAR operations with an accurate, continuously updated location for each individual carrying it.
In an emergency rescue situation, such technology can reduce or eliminate SAR errors by providing GPS coordinates of survivors, enhancing their chances of
survival. Vessel owners and operators can enhance the safety of crews by equipping vessels and crews with these technologies to supplement a vessel’s EPIRB.
#4 Vessel stability
A properly designed, loaded, and operated vessel should possess sufficient stability to return to its upright position after exposure to a disturbing force within its designed limits, such as from waves or wind. Regulatory stability criteria set a minimum standard for vessels, and crews must ensure their vessels are loaded and operated in accordance with this standard. When vessels do not meet stability criteria, they do not have the margin of safety intended by the regulations, and when they are exposed to conditions that exceed their operational limits, they become more susceptible to a loss of stability.
Fatigue impacts all aspects of human performance. Inadequate sleep risks operators falling asleep at the wheel and can also lead to poor decision making
and reaction time. To prevent fatigue, vessel owners and operators must practice effective fatigue management by monitoring watch schedules to
ensure crewmembers receive adequate rest. Additionally, crewmembers should use fatigue mitigation tools, such as wheelhouse watch alarms.
#6 Proper Installation, operation, and ,maintenance of electrical equipment
Substandard installation of electrical equipment and outfitting is a common cause of electrical fires. Proper operation and maintenance of electrical equipment is required to avoid damage to vessel critical systems and prevent crew injuries. Vessel operators should ensure electrical systems and equipment are adequately
designed, installed, and maintained by qualified personnel in accordance with established marine standards.
#7 Sound navigation practice–avoiding Avoiding Overreliance on a Single Data Source
The safety of a vessel and its crew while underway depends on the crew’s awareness of the vessel’s position. The inability to recognize the fallibility of technology, such as an ECDIS or autopilot, can result in operator overreliance and overconfidence, degrading sound navigation practices and affecting situational awareness.
#8 Response to loss of steering and propulsion
Failures in steering control systems and loss of propulsion pose a significant risk to vessels, especially when maneuvering near immediate hazards, making
response time critical. Vessel owners and operators should identify potential failure modes, develop quick response procedures and train crews in specific
scenarios to ensure they maintain proficiency in responding to a loss of steering or propulsion.
#9 Effective communication
Effective, early communication is critical—not only between crewmembers on board a vessel, but also between vessel operators and organizations that
alert them to hazardous situations.
#10 Mooring system arrangements
Mariners should fit mooring chains of sufficient length to provide adequate scope for anchorages and consider the strength of each component of a ground
tackle system, referencing marine standards for design. Bending loads can be significantly higher than straight-line pull. The working load limit of each
component should be equal to or greater than the ground tackle system’s maximum calculated load to avoid weak points in the system.
#11 Engine repairs
Vessel operators should ensure their crews are equipped with the resources and training needed to execute timelyand thorough maintenance and repair on
engines. Several casualties were likely caused by a failure to tighten fasteners on marine engines to the manufacturer’s recommended torque settings. When
installing fasteners, personnel should use a calibrated torque wrench, follow the manufacturer’s recommended tightening guide and torque values, and verify the completion of all required torque requirements.
#12 Hull condition
Towing vessels with weather decks and openings in poor condition increase the risk of flooding and sinking. It is good marine practice for owners to conduct
regular oversight and maintenance of hulls, including between drydock periods. An effective maintenance and hull inspection program should proactively address potential steel wastage, identify hull and watertight integrity deficiencies, and ensure corrosion issues are quickly addressed.