On August 15th the U.S. Coast Guard issued its final report on the sinking of the Maritrans tug Valour, which went down about 40 miles off Wilmington, N.C. during a storm on the night of January 18th, 2006, with the loss of three crewmen. I’ll offer some of my own more detailed analysis after I’ve read through it a second and third time and can think about it some more. In the meantime I’ll say this: the investigation and report appear to be thorough, accurate and well-executed, and it sure feels good to be able to say that for a change about something produced by the C.G.’s Marine Safety division. Well done, Lt. Commander Barbee.
Two things immediately stand out. First, the Chief Engineer, although rescued alive, eventually died from shock as a result of hypothermia, in 64°F water. Most people wouldn’t consider that to be particularly cold water, but it turned out to be fatal for this man. Second, the sinking was caused by a loss of stability that was itself caused by a chain of human errors, including a lack of knowledge of the vessel, a lack of proper stability-maintenance procedures to follow, and poor communication between the members of the crew.
This is sobering reading; people died and the whole thing should have been avoidable. The main reason for reports like this is so that the rest of us can learn from the mistakes of others and, hopefully, avoid them ourselves. It’s definitely worth your time to study the 35 pages contained in this report, and it’s not just for the deck officers. Print it out and put it in the galley for everyone to read.