Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Bounty, Sandy and Storm Avoidance Techniques. The NTSB Report

Bounty (Wikipedia photo)
The National Transportation Safety Board has released it's report on the sinking of the Bounty. (here pdf).  There were lots of questionable practices with regard to maintenance, training and procedures  however with regards to the actual navigation in relationship  to the storm  there has been questions about the decision to pass west of the storm. There is a good graphic of the track of both the ship and the storm here.

Possibly the captain was using traditional low-tech  hurricane avoidance techniques that were not applicable to the situation.

From the  NTSB report:
 It is possible that the captain may have focused too narrowly on the position of the storm’s eye instead of on Sandy’s total expanse (winds associated with the storm spanned more than 1,000 miles in diameter, and the area into which the Bounty was heading was already under tropical storm warnings, with conditions  forecasted to worsen).Still, the captain seemed to believe that he could outrace the storm.
A traditional method of hurricane avoidance  is to stay a safe  distance from the eye on a track that passes the hurricane using  the so-called  navigable  semi-circle.

 On the navigable side,(the west side in the case of Sandy) as the storm approaches,  the winds and seas will be astern (important for a square rig sailing vessel) while also  pushing the vessel out of the path of the storm. Also the wind speeds are less because the winds are the cyclonic so the total wind speed is the  winds minus the storm direction.   On the dangerous semi-circle side (east side) the winds and sea tend to push the vessel into the path of the storm and also the cyclonic winds are added to the storm direction.

It seems plausible that Capt. Walbridge would have had high confidence in traditional low-tech avoidance methods.

The problem is that in the case of Sandy at the time of the encounter  the concepts of navigable/dangerous semi-circle were invalid.

This is because  when the Bounty encountered  Sandy it was transiting from a tropical cyclone(warm core) to an  extratropical cyclone (cold core). The meteorology is complex but the take-away for the mariner is that the wind field will expand and the field will no longer have the same characteristics.

Here is  tropical cyclone Katrina:

Katina (From NASA)
The dark colors represent the area of highest winds.  The strongest winds are NE of the center, the so-called dangerous semi-circle.

From NASA: 
Katrina was a textbook tropical cyclone, with a compact, symmetrical wind field that whipped around a circular low-pressure center.

Sandy, at about the time of the encounter on the other hand looks quite different:

Sandy (from NASA)
  In Sandy  the strongest winds are in south and west of the center and further from the center. Tragically this is where the Bounty was when it encountered Sandy.

 So when tropical cyclones become extratropical, their wind and cloud fields expand dramatically. Their strongest winds generally weaken during this process, but occasionally a transitioning storm retains hurricane force winds, as was the case with Sandy.

 From the NHC on the 28th.



What  the Bounty encountered may have  the highest wind speeds in the system. The Bounty  was about 100 miles from the center in what would be considered (in a hurricane) the  safe semi-circle. What was encountered instead was  not only the highest wind speeds but also the roughest seas, made short and steep  by the contrary (north bound) Gulf Stream current.

In spite of the complex situation the models used by meteorologist  for the Sandy forecast were  accurate.  There is a good discussion of the forecast here.   Had the captain used the NHC (National Hurricane Center) forecasts he may have been able to avoid the worse of the storm. Of course with few hurricane  encounters under his belt the inexperienced  Walbridge likely had more confidence in his own skills then the NHC forecasts.  Walbridge's confidence was misplaced.

A better approach is to set wind speed  and/or sea height  limits before the voyage and to use forecasts to ensure those limits are not exceeded. 

Even better then dodging bad weather  of course to find a good hurricane hole, put out extra lines and stay put till the storm passes.



The NWS warns that the 1-2-3 Rule  "does not account for the typical expansion of the wind field as a system transitions from hurricane to extratropical gale/storm."  Nonetheless the rule holds up quite well.

Sandy and the 1-2-3 Rule from David Burch Navigation
Source for the info on tropical system and extratopical is from: Comparing the Winds of Sandy and Katria

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Comments on the Mariners Danger Rule for Hurricane Avoidance

 The original 1-2-3 and 34 kt Rule at the Mariner's Weather Log is here (pdf file).

The Mariners Danger  Rule is actully two rules - The 1-2-3 Rule and the 34 kts Rule. The 34 kt Rule is the recommendation that deep-sea ocean going ships stay outside the 34 knot wind field.  The 1-2-3  Rule is a method for plotting a danger area using a margin for forecast errors. The Mariners Dangers Rule  allows mariners to plot the danger area based upon forecasts.

Bill Bishop at The Marine Installers Rant put up an interesting post this past June - 123 TD Andrea about the Mariners 1-2-3 with links to the National Hurricane Center's National Hurricane Center Forecast Verification  with some charts showing the errors in hurricane forecasts.

Bill makes some good points about average errors  compared to the errors in the forecasts of individual hurricanes. 

  The 24 hour position forecast is pretty much on the money, the 48 hour position isn't quite as good, and at 72 hours you can see the outliers really start to appear, and by 120 hours the data permutations are biting hard. It's pretty much hit or miss, with a lot of misses. The intensity forecasts that impact the size of 34 kt wind fields are even more difficult to get right.

Bill makes another point about being inside the  35 knot field as too much. If 35 kts is too much just adjust accordingly. However besides the issue of the accuracy and reliability of the track forecast there is the issue of the forecast wind intensity and variations in wind field size. . For me  if I'm in 35 kts it is not usually an issue but if it was I'd add some distance from the system.

. From the NWS:
The 1-2-3 rule establishes a minimum recommended distance to maintain from a hurricane in the Atlantic. Larger buffer zones should be established in situations with higher forecast uncertainty, limited crew experience, decreased vessel handling, or other factors set by the vessel master. The rule does not account for sudden & rapid intensification of hurricanes that could result in an outward expansion of the 34 KT wind field. Also, the rule does not account for the typical expansion of the wind field as a system transitions from hurricane to extratropical gale/storm.

There is also a post at the Art of Dredging about the  1-2-3 rule which makes remarks about the dangers of using average tracks for hurricane avoidance.  That's a good point, using average tracks is a very bad idea,  but I don't agree with this:

The 1-2-3 system assumes that the cyclone will follow the textbooks.
Here is something new: tropical cyclones do not read textbooks.
And the chances you take (by assuming that cyclones stick to the rules) are huge.
Guessing that cyclones will follow the rules is close to a game of Russian roulette.
That's incorrect, no assumptions about cyclones following textbooks are made, the 1-2-3 Rule uses the forecast track with a margin of error. There is an important difference between the average track and the forecast track.

 In most cases the forecast is going to be the best information you have. Staying out of the area where the hurricane is forecast to go seems smart to me. The post mentions "modern techniques" but doesn't say what they are.

  This is what the original  article says in the case your vessel is in the danger area:

when a hurricane’s track is plotted, a 100-mile error for each 24-hour period must be applied and a vessel within this adjusted area must take action as if a hurricane were bearing directly toward them, which may become the case  

Forecasts are issued every six hours and the danger area can be replotted each time a forecast is received. The idea that the 1-2-3 rule uses textbook assumptions is nonsense.

All rules, including the Mariners Danger Rule are simplifications of more complex realities - knowing the rule alone may not be sufficient in all cases. When  there is any elevated risk or a complex situation  I get advice  from professional weather routers. Information about model agreement and confidence in the predicted track could be critical.  It's all about using more expertise if required to stay safe.

My post: Guidelines for Avoiding Hurricanes at Sea is here and How Accurate are Weather Forecasts? is here 

The NWS National Hurricane Center Marine Safety  is here. 

Mariner's Guide For Hurricane Awareness
in the North Atlantic Basin


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Shanghai, Singapore, Suez and Panama Canals Seen from I Pad using INavX and Navionics Charts

The I Pad is using INavX software with Navionics  charts. The data is via wireless NMEA data over TCP/IP

This is Singapore, each vessel within AIS range is shown.

I now know you can save screen shots on an I Pad, this last trip however I used my camera to take theses shots.

Shanghai China.


The two entrances of the Yangtze River can be seen by the AIS of the vessels.


This is Shanghai,  alongside.


This is the Gulf of Aden, everyone is behaving themselves, staying in the IRTC.

Gulf of Aden

The Red Sea and Suez Canal

Red Sea

Panama Canal

Panama Canal

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Twilight Mersin Turkey

Twilight Mersin Turkey
Our stern ramp is aft on the starboard side so we don't often tie up port side to. I  walked the length of the ship with my camera  to record any new damage and I snapped this picture when  got to the bow. (no new damage)


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Accident Defense - The Costa Corcordia

Costa Concordia lays on the rocks Isola del Giglio
The Costa Concordia sank about a year ago, there have been numerous reports and commentaries  I thought the his one:   Costa Concordia   Anatomy of an organizational accident was interesting.

The report listed 6 errors which lead to the grounding. The errors were referred to as breaches of a defense. Defenses against incidents can be compared to a defense in a game such as soccer  against the opposing team scoring a goal.

In the case of a soccer team the defense is also in layers.

The first layer  is a good offense. If your team has possession of the ball and is in scoring position there is little chance the opposing team can score.

The second layer is keeping the opposition out of scoring position. The last layer of defense is the goalie.  If at all possible the goal of the defense is to avoid allowing shots on goal.

Looking at the 6 errors;

 This was where the captain allowed the opposition to have possession of the ball.
 The first error was made by the Captain, when he decided to change his original voyage plan without the agreement of the Company and local authorities
On the second and third errors  the opposition is moving the ball down the field.

The second error was a shortfall in voyage planning. According to the Safety Officer8 - who arrived on the bridge just after the impact with the rock – only the original route was drawn on the paper chart, a few miles off the island.

The third error relates to route monitoring, a specific task of the Officer Of the Watch (OOW). The bridge team was composed of a Senior OOW, a Junior OOW, a deck cadet, and a seaman with either lookout or helmsman functions. The SOOW was in charge of the conduct of navigation, with regards to conning orders, collision avoidance and route monitoring on the INS. The JOOW was assisting him fixing the ship’s position on paper charts, which has to be considered with priority over the INS route monitoring. The JOOW could not correctly monitor the approach to Giglio Island, firstly because there were no routes drawn on larger scale charts than 1:100.000, and secondly because she left the chart table to assist the helmsman when the Captain took the command of navigation

Now the opposition is moving the ball into scoring position
The fourth error also relates to route monitoring. In contrast to the third error, this involved the INS, to be officially used only as an aid to navigation. The equipment was operated by the SOOW, who used the radar distances and the electronic chart overlay to monitor the approach to the island. The error consisted in assessing the distance from the furthermost radar echo of Le Scole rocks, and not from the limit of the no-go area, that is the 10 meters bathymetric line.

 The fifth error is in the area of Bridge Resource Management (BRM), and it can be attributed to the Captain, as team leader. Indeed the effectiveness of BRM practices - essentially aiming at optimizing team work – depends heavily on the leadership skills of the Captain. That night, since the Captain arrived on the bridge at about 5 miles from Giglio Island, a series of erroneous BRM practices can be extracted from the depositions. These shortfalls are of a non-technical nature, involving mainly lack of team briefing, and lack of formal handover. In short, the Captain did not share intentions and expected outcomes of the decisions made, both before and during the manoeuvre.
 On the sixth and last error nothing stands between the opposition and a goal except the goalie.

 The sixth error is of a shiphandling nature. It was the one breaching the last available defence: the human expertise. The error consisted in failing to maintain the newly established safety margin of about 0.25 nautical miles.

The captain worked himself into a position where he had only his shiphandling skills to prevent disaster.

A good defense in sports reduces the number of shots on goal rather then depending upon the goalie to make saves. Careful voyage planning and good bridge team management likewise reduces the number of "saves", situations which in which the crew has little room for error.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Crew of the Iceberg 1 is in Distress and Requires Assistance

Photo from
"some members of the shipping community feel the industry has failed the crew of the Iceberg" 1
That quote is from Two scars on the conscience of the shipping industry.

The shipping industry and governments have chosen to ignore the plight of the crew of the Iceberg 1.

Its time for mariners to step up and come to the aid of the crew.  I understand that mariners feel powerless, mariners are easy targets when a scapegoat is needed  and easy to ignore when  they  are held by Somali pirates.  Mariners are, in fact, almost powerless to act in this case. No one cares what mariners  have to say. In this case the shipping industry and governments evidently consider the crew not worthy of attention.

I believe mariners can bring needed attention to the case of the Iceberg 1, but not as individuals. That's the idea behind the Mariners Action Group.

 You can now join Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group here. 

The propose of the group is  "to bring international attention to their plight, and pressure to bear for their release". 

  The Facebook page, which has gotten over 2000 "likes" is here  M/V Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group, 

The Pear Link post is here 

 I know these web sites and so forth are not a lot but it's something, and the crew of the Iceberg 1 deserve more help then they are getting.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

M/V Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group Forming.

Photo from
 UPDATE: Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group web site here.

 UPDATE:  You can now join Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group here. 

 Looking for mariners and one who would like to add their name to the effort to assist the crew of the Iceberg1.

The M/V Iceberg 1,  has been held by  Somali - based pirates since March 29, 2010 and has been abandoned by it's owners, Azal Shipping & Cargo, UAE and, as far as I know, no one is working for it's release except the families of the crew who have little leverage

As individuals we also have little leverage to assist the crew. To gain leverage, a  group of mariners,  the M/V Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group  is being formed to:  "to bring international attention to their plight, and pressure to bear for their release". 
The group has started the  M/V Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group, Facebook page. At this point we've not established a way to join the group except to leave a comment  but:  "please help by Liking, linking, tweeting;  spreading the word!"

The M/V Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group currently is supported by myself and Reid Sprague of Pear Link and we are seeking more support. - Reid's post about the MAG is here:  Reid is planning a petition. I'll post  more when we've got more, meanwhile go "like"  M/V Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group, Facebook page.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Susan Clark, Ship Captain, Pilot, Crosses Final Bar.

Capt. Susan Clark (Bangor  Daily News Photo)

Capt. Susan J. Clark, Portland Harbor pilot passed away 6 Sept.  Susan was born and raised in Skowhegan Maine, a mill town on the Kennebec River.

Susan finished first in her class at Skowhegan High School, and first at Maine Maritime. She was Exxon's first women ship captain. She Obtained her law degree and became a Portland Harbor Pilot.

Condolences to her family and friends.

Bangor Daily News obituary here.

Kennebec River at Skowhegan


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Debby - When Forecasts are not Accurate

Possible paths for Debby (from The Original Weather Blog)
After I posted "How Accurate are Weather Forecasts?" I encountered Tropical Storm Debby this past June  as it formed  in the Gulf of Mexico.  We didn't experience much besides some rain and 25 kts or so of wind. 

The interesting thing about Debby was the  large error in the forecast which seems to contradict my post in which I linked to the post  Extraordinary Skill for Extended Weather Forecasts  from Cliff Mass Weather Blog

This was an early  forecast from the NWS:

(from The Original Weather Blog)

This is a latter  forecast which is much closer to the actual track.

(from The Original Weather Blog)

In fact forecasters were well aware of the uncertainty in the forecast, here is a chart showing what the various models were showing:
(from The Original Weather Blog)

 The question is; how does the mariner at sea know when forecasters are not confident in the forecast?

 If access to the internet available mariners can dig down deeper by reading the discussion of the forecast which is available on weather web sites including the NWS.

Without internet access it's a little more difficult. The key is to use more then one source when available, in addition to national weather service forecasts  I use a weather routing service if I am going to be in the vicinity of heavy weather. The operations department also sends additional weather if  I request it.  A couple of times I've had my wife email me weather info.

Don't bet too heavy using a single source. As before, with the weather forecast, trust, but verify.


A good discussion of Debby at The Original Weather Blog here
Tropical Storm Debby Forms in the Gulf... Now What?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Stowage of Arms Put the Ocean Atlas at Risk

Mossberg 12 gauge Shotgun (Photo by K.C.)
The U.S. flagged  M/V Ocean Atlas was delayed in the port of Maracaibo, Venezuela for 12 days for issues related to arms carried aboard for anti-piracy.

Weapons are used by security teams in  areas that are at high risk for piracy. These weapons  are left on board the ship after transit of high risk waters even after the security teams disembarks  to avoid the expense and hassles related to the transfer of weapons to and from the vessel.

The problem with using the ship for storage for weapons outside piracy waters is apparent in the case of the Ocean Atlas. On-board stowage of  weapons puts the captain, crew and vessel at risk and  places  the vessel and crew at  mercy of  port authorities  and government officials.

Aside from the risk of delay, having to clear weapons though customs  port authorities  of various ports  is a hassle. Port officials require documents, inventories etc  and frequently demand  to see and count weapons upon arrival and again upon departure.

In my last post I suggested that it would be better to remove weapons and ammunition at the same key points where the teams are picked up and dropped off now, Port Suez, Fujairah, Galle and Durban.

Governments involved should  set up convenient armories  at key points and eliminate costly bureaucratic obstacle to the transfer of weapons ashore so ships are not unnecessarily put  at risk by  port officials in ports of call outside high risk areas where weapons are not needed.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Board and Disembark Security like Ship Pilots

Armed security teams should be able to board and disembark from vessels as routinely as do ship pilots.  If vessels were stationed at key points, the same places where security teams are dropped off and picked up now - Port Suez, Fujairah, Galle and Durban, then teams, and their weapons could easily board and disembark and it would avoid hassles associated with carrying weapons aboard ship.

The case is laid out here: Anarchy on the High Seas (pdf)  (via Maritime Security Review)

 A few other interesting comments as well


EDIT: Make clear that weapons should be removed with the security team.