Driving Forward
December 10, 2022 1:15 AM   Subscribe

In March 2022 The Ever Forward grounded in Chesapeake Bay. Much discussed here at the time. Now nine months later the US Coast Guard has issued its accident report with recommendations. The slightly garrulous Sal Mercogliano give his insider's take: good fun but 30mins. tl;dr: the Captain was having dinner downstairs; the pilot was chatn and txtn on his phone; the most junior watch-keeper had the con; visibility and weather fine. What could possibly go wrong?

The USCG has taken 9 months to get its redacted report out? After the Windscale Fire and nuclear meltdown on 10 Nov 1957 [our local Chernobyl], the accident report was on the Prime Minister's desk in 16 days. Sir William "Manhattan Project" Penney was lead investigator. PM Macmillan promptly shredded and buried the report.

Evergreen the shipping company have been in the news in March 2021, March 2022: do things really come in threes?
posted by BobTheScientist (13 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Proper accident investigation and reporting takes time.

The initial evidence gathering takes place immediately. For an incident of this scale that will have generated a huge amount of information. Each of those bits of information will have generated new leads that need to be followed up. Lots of people and organisations will need to be contacted and asked for further information. There can be several iterations of this.

Then a whole lot of different people have to process it all and piece together what happened. They need to be extremely careful not to jump to conclusions. The obvious narrative is often wrong. All interpretation needs to be done very conservatively and shown to be supported by the evidence. People need to review all this carefully, making sure that all the conclusions are fully supported, and looking for things that may have been missed.

Often, this leads to new questions. More evidence needs to be gathered. Witnesses need to be interviewed again. Sometimes simulations or experiments need to be designed and run. Then all the interpretation needs to be revisited in light of the new evidence.

Eventually, once there is an accepted version of what is known about what happened, the process of making recommendations can start. A lot of different people in different agencies and organisations need to be consulted. They all need time to go through their own processes to decide how to respond and what recommendations to make.

All the stakeholders affected will then have an opportunity to respond. They may accept, comment on or challenge the findings and recommendations. Sometimes this will lead to another round of the process.

Finally, when all the dust has settled, a final version of the report is made public.

I've been a cog in a process very much like this, as a witness, after an accident in which a friend of mine was killed. It took a year and a half.

If an earlier investigation, elsewhere in the world, had taken the time to go deeper into the causes of a similar accident, it might not have happened.

Eight months is nothing. This is fast, and criticising the USGC for it is bullshit.
posted by automatronic at 2:56 AM on December 10, 2022 [39 favorites]

9 months is quite fast for accident investigation, I believe.
posted by hoyland at 3:39 AM on December 10, 2022 [5 favorites]

I thought Sal Mercogliano was making a mistake when he used the term Able Bodied Seaman but the official Coast Guard report uses the same term. I've only ever heard Able Seaman used before.
posted by antiwiggle at 4:08 AM on December 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

how is a report about a 65 year old incident in another country about an accident in an unrelated field relevant to this?
posted by kokaku at 4:09 AM on December 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

On the bridge at the time was the Third Officer, Deck Cadet, and an Able Bodied Seaman...

Some might think a change to "Seaperson" is in order, but at least strike the "Bodied" part in favor of just "Able", and require abilities encompassing both body and mind.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:28 AM on December 10, 2022

What's weird about that is able seaman is already the correct term - i.e. it wouldn't be a modern update to omit the word "bodied", it would be the correct historic term too; instead this seems to be someone making a modern change to add that word.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:16 AM on December 10, 2022

Here's the PDF of the Coast Guard's accident report on the Ever Forward.
(The phrase "able bodied seaman" is in their language. Looking around online, it looks like the job/rank title is officially "able seaman" but this phrase is often followed by "also known as an able bodied seaman or AB seaman for short." So I learned something new today I guess.)

I'm glad they came out with their findings and recommendations to limit cellphone use while fricking piloting a gigantic boat - and woooow am I glad to not be the pilot who screwed this up.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:31 AM on December 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

What I will tell you about the Coast Guard is that they do one thing quickly: they respond to emergencies. Oil spills, shipwrecks, and so forth.

For everything else: they are a federal agency, and they move slowly.
posted by suelac at 7:42 AM on December 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

instead this seems to be someone making a modern change to add that word.

The wiki article you linked to has a subsection explaining this pervasive usage:
Some modern references claim that AB stands for able-bodied seaman as well as, or instead of, able seaman. Able seaman was originally entered using the abbreviation AB instead of the more obvious AS in ships' muster books or articles. Such an entry was likely to avoid confusion with ordinary seaman (OS). Later the abbreviation began to be written as A.B., leading to the folk-etymological able-bodied seaman. The "correct" term, able seaman, remains in use in legal documents, in seaman's papers, and aboard ship.
posted by zamboni at 9:22 AM on December 10, 2022 [5 favorites]

I have a boat and use it on the Chesapeake. The report mentions "fixation on electronic devices" and it really IS a problem. The lazy nature of a boat's travel seems to greatly increase the tendency to keep looking at a screen, ignoring that the boat is continuing to move, and not necessarily on the intended course. And that's just the chart plotters. To be immersed in a phone conversation and drafting e-mail just makes it even worse.

That and for all the commercial shipping that moves on the Bay, you would not believe how truly shallow it is. Average depth is, like 10' overall. Given the momentum carried by those large vessels it doesn't take long for a course deviation to have you running aground.
posted by wkearney99 at 12:00 PM on December 10, 2022 [5 favorites]

I miss when the boat was stuck. Such simple, innocent days.
posted by The otter lady at 12:11 PM on December 10, 2022 [4 favorites]

the accident report was on the Prime Minister's desk in 16 days.

"well, it fucking melted down, dinnit?"
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:44 PM on December 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

The Ever* Forward
posted by Sebmojo at 5:21 PM on December 11, 2022

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