Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Coast Guard refuses to buckle - Barges not seaworthy

Voyage of the Vasa (From Wikipedia)

A few days back there was a great deal of frustration and anger directed at government red tape in general and the Coast Guard specifically when some barges which had been jury rigged to clean oil were delayed. (Coast Guard overrides Bobby Jindal, orders barges to stop cleaning oil)

At the time of the delay it seemed to Governer Jindal  and others that it was extremely urgent that these barges get back to work,  following Coast Guard regulations seems like an unnecessary hindrance. From the article:
Brassel repeatedly declined to say whether the Coast Guard balances safety considerations in an urgent, disaster response scenario like what is happening in the Gulf versus ordinary circumstances when time is not of the essence.
Of course if the decision had been made to put the barges to work without the appropriate safety measures and an accident had occurred it would have been obvious in hindsight that it was a mistake. An example of this is  the case of the Deepwater Horizon 

Keeping the BP Deepwater from slipping further behind schedule seemed very urgent just before it exploded and sank. Reportedly  short cuts were taken to  "to speed finishing the well," which was running "significantly behind schedule. (Lawmakers accuse BP of 'shortcuts')

You'd think that the folks that were urgently  pushing to have possibly unseaworthy vessel to sea would be able to put two and two together.  A Bravo Zulu to the Coast Guard for sticking to their guns.



Anonymous said...

Isn't this story 2 weeks old? The link you provided is 2 weeks old.

Pretty sure the CG "buckled" about 24 hours later, unless you're referring to another instance?

Pretty foolish to stop work because you can't find a fire extinguisher, or find out who built the barge. Seriously, if we can't start to use some common sense, and start acting like men, instead of a bunch of castrated wusses, why bother??

This book is about a decade old, but worth a read:


Will said...

You're right, fire extinguishers are for pussies.

Anonymous said...

Wow - you've really jumped the shark (as the drilling rig folks like to say) in drawing a comparison between BP's ineptitude and it's own unethical decisions motivated by greed and profit with Jindal and LA's sense of urgency in getting oil out of the water to save the environment and the economy.

Federal govt. needs to genuinely help or get the hell out of the way. If they think the barges don't have enough fire extinguishers, a vessel full of extinguishers should be on it's way out to the barge to keep them working.

Before the book is closed on this whole affair, there should be congressional hearings held on the performance of the Coast Guard, EPA, NOAA, and DOI, just like for BP.

Ken E. Beck said...

It wasn't just fire extinguishers. There were questions about the barges stability. That is why the Coast Guard wanted to find the builder, for data.

In other words it wasn't known if the barges would roll over when the got out to sea, like the Vasa.

Will said...

Barista Uno said...

What happened is akin to firemen being prevented from training their hoses on a burning house because inspectors determined that the nozzles were substandard or the firefighters wore the wrong type of boots.

We all need to be flexible, especially in emergency situations.

Ken E. Beck said...

Thanks for the comment. I don't agree however. It seemed urgent to BP that the Deepwater Horizon not full any further behind schedule. It seemed urgent to the captain of the Titanic that the ship not lose time on it's maiden voyage, it seemed urgent to Rob Hall, the climber who lost his life on Everest (Into Thin Air) that he take his clients to the top. In each case we know in hindsight they made an error. In each case the sense of urgency was misplaced.

In the case of the barges, the owners of the barge contacted the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard had questions about the stability of the barges. In the end what happened was the barges lost 24 hours working time, probably as a direct result of tangled bureaucracy. But what if the barges had been sent to sea and one had rolled over killing oil-spill clean up workers? To the owners, the workers and the families of workers would not have thought that the fraction of the total oil spill removed by the barges was worth the lives of the workers.

In the end, about 10% of the oil spilled into the water will be recovered. The amount recovered by these barges will be some small per cent of that. Having these barges idle for 24 hours is not nearly as urgent as it seems now.

Barista Uno said...

So the delay was only 24 hours. This wasn't clear in your post. In that case, the Coast Guard's decision to call a halt to the clean-up wasn't horrible...on hindsight.

But to elaborate on my point about being flexible, I do think that there are situations (in life, generally) where one has to make a judgment call - which implies taking some risks. The Coast Guard in this instance made such a judgment call in the name of safety and took the risk of being castigated for its decision.

Somebody falls from a bridge into the river below. I know how to swim but I ponder like Hamlet, should I jump in and save the poor fellow? What if I suffer from crumps or catch pneumonia because of the cold? Should I or should I not?

I have nothing against prudence but sometimes there's something to be said, too, for boldness. Without it, nobody would have ever reached the top of Mount Everest, to use your own example.

Cheers! And thanks for the bold post.

Ken E. Beck said...

Barista Uno

Your comments are appreciated. In my experience the tools the Coast Guard uses are much more blunt then other agencies ie delay of sailing vs $1000 fine. That's another post. In this case the truth is I don't know all the facts but am using it as an example.

Regards. Capt. Ken E. Beck