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Uh, What Happened Here? (Fitzgerald Collision)

by Karl Denninger, Market Ticker:

As you’ve probably heard one of our destroyers suffered an impact with a freighter near Japan.

From where the impact occurred it at first-blush appears that the commander of our destroyer is in serious trouble. For those unfamiliar with nautical rules of the road if you get hit on the starboard side you probably are at fault because you’re the “give way” vessel and the other is stand-on.

That is, the other vessel is supposed to maintain course and speed, you are supposed to alter course to remain clear.

Further, there are two other considerations — first, that if you’re in doubt as to whether the risk of collision exists you’re required to assume it does, and second, you’re required to maintain an adequate lookout (using whatever you have, including people, radar, etc) so as to be able to assess the safety of proceeding on your current course and speed and, if you can’t, you must reduce speed to bare steerageway until you can (e.g. in heavy precip that renders radar and lookouts useless, etc.)

Then there’s the “catch-all” which is that you are required to do anything in your power to avoid a collision if you determine that you’re at imminent risk, even if it means breaking the rules!

The upshot of the way the navigation rules are written is that if there’s a collision it is almost never the case that either master is absolved. The only real way you avoid some responsibility is if you’re properly anchored (and dayshaped/lit) or tied to a pier.

If you’re legally underway (moving or not) you’re going to get some percentage of the fault, in short.

But then this showed up and calls into question exactly where the split of fault lies.

Boy that looks suspicious. First, the freighter doubled back at speed and then altered course again just before the impact.

Remember, this happened in clear weather, at night. There is no reason to believe visibility was impaired or anything of the sort. The first violent, unsolicited maneuver (doubling back) looks suspicious standing alone given that the vessel’s intended path was northeast if it was proceeding as-planned. The second course adjustment southward just before the impact looks even worse.

I remind you that boats do not have brakes and although a destroyer is very maneuverable “on balance” compared against, say, a container ship you’re not stopping one all that quickly. Nor would the master of said vessel (whoever was on watch at the time; the commander was presumably sleeping) have had any reason to expect a violent maneuver by the stand-on vessel approaching it and which, on its present course and speed immediately prior, would pass well clear without incident.

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4 comments to Uh, What Happened Here? (Fitzgerald Collision)

  • Craig Escaped Detroit

    Looks like it’s not good to be sailing on any ship named “Fitzgerald”… as in the Edmund Fitzgerald.

    The only name that could be worse, is if it was named “Titanic-Fitzgerald”.

  • CAJUN

    “No brakes on a boat.” WTF ?
    Craig, is your garden gettin’ plenty water? If it ain’t it’s a coming!

    • Craig Escaped Detroit

      Light rain today, more tomorrow.

      When I was researching places to move to (escaping Detroit), I not only researched taxes, climate, demographics, crime stats, geography, etc, but I also researched tornado, hurricane and lightning stats going back, in some cases, 50 years or so.

      It turns out, this exact little geographical strip of land (about 30 or 50 miles wide with Hwy 331 just about the center line), going north from the gulf beaches, has historically been the least dangerous place along the entire gulf of Mexico region. I have NO idea exactly WHY it’s that way, but the historical (NOAA) data proves it. (this region also has the highest elevation above sea level in the entire state of Florida=up to 340ft.)

      If there ever is a hurricane into my little “safe zone”, it will be moderated by 2 facts of geography.
      1= I’m 300ft above sea level with rolling hills and real forests all around.
      2= I’m about 50 miles inland from the sea shore. (I’ve been told that previous hurricanes in this region, lost more than a full category of strength before it can travel 25 miles inland.)

  • CAJUN

    Don’t let all that research lull you! When Mother Nature is mad nothing is concrete, no pun intended! That area might be under the Spirit of the Seminole Nation! Y’all will be in my prayers this summer.

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