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Old 02-18-2019, 05:49 AM   #1
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"THE CAPTAIN CLASS" from the WSJ

This is from Saturday's WSJ, i think you may find it interesting.
I have not read nor remember reading, the original accident report.

From Saturday's Wall Street Journal:

THE CAPTAIN CLASS
The Truth About Failing Spectacularly

Did a lack of experience sink the MS Explorer—and the Los Angeles Rams?

By Sam Walker | 1244 words

Alamy The legendary polar cruise ship the MS Explorer sank in Antarctica in November 2007.

Twelve years ago, the world’s most renowned polar cruise ship, the MS Explorer, set out from a deep-water port in Argentina toward the icy, treacherous waters of Antarctica. The ship’s 154 passengers and crew had every reason to feel secure. With its class-1A ice-reinforced hull, bow thrusters and brawny diesel engines, the Explorer had been safely ferrying tourists through extreme polar environments since 1969.

It was the first cruise ship ever to navigate the Northwest Passage. What they couldn’t have imagined is that 12 days later, on a remote stretch of the Southern Ocean, they would feel a jolt, followed by the sickening sound of rushing water.

Or that four hours later, in the frigid dead of night, with the ship listing at 20 degrees, the captain would order every last person into the lifeboats.

Despite saving all 154 passengers when the MS Explorer sank, Bengt Wiman, the captain, was blamed for the disaster.

The sinking of the Explorer on November 23, 2007, was one of the most bewildering disasters in modern maritime history.

It also came to be remembered, fairly or not, as a cautionary tale about overconfident, underexperienced leadership. Sixteen months after the accident, marine safety investigators representing Liberia, where the Explorer was registered, fixed the blame primarily on one person: Bengt Wiman, the ship’s 49-year-old captain, who’d been commanding the Explorer for the first time and had participated in only one Antarctic voyage.

After steering into a belt of concentrated pack ice that was more dangerous than he realized, the report alleged, Mr. Wiman had impatiently plowed into a “wall”of solid ice, likely at an “excessive”speed of roughly five knots.

The force of the collision left multiple punctures in the ship’s starboard hull. These allegations seem to suggest that any business ought to think twice before sending a lightly seasoned manager on a perilous new assignment.

The real problem, I’d argue, is that when first-time leaders fail, they often do so spectacularly.

In the runup to the Super Bowl, one of the hottest storylines was the precocity of Sean McVay, the innovative 33-year-old head coach of the Los Angeles Rams.
The high-flying offense he’d built had turned the Rams into a contender, prompting several other NFL teams to hire untested coaches, too.

On Feb. 3, however, that parade got rained out. The New England Patriots, coached by the 66-year-old veteran Bill Belichick, devised a stifling defensive game plan that limited the Rams to three points.
On a day that Mr. McVay became the youngest coach in Super Bowl history, he also tied another record—fewest points scored. “I got outcoached,” he told reporters.

Sean McVay, the youngest coach in Super Bowl history, said he was ‘outcoached’after the Los Angeles Rams scored only three points against the New England Patriots.

Placed side by side, the Rams’ Mr. McVay and the Explorer’s Mr. Wiman may seem like symbolic twins: unseasoned leaders who flew too close to the sun.

But there was one important difference. As football experts broke down the Super Bowl tape, they found several instances where other people, including Jared Goff, the Rams’24-year-old quarterback, had made critical errors.

The only footage of the Explorer’s fateful night came from short videos shot by passengers. The captain failed to remove the ship’s voyage data recorder, so the report was cobbled together from interviews, logs and nautical charts.

Many accounts differed, and the truth may never be known. One of the oddest mysteries was the captain’s silence.

Mr. Wiman had never given a detailed account. His only contribution to the report was a short email offering a skeletal defense. He eventually moved back to his native Sweden to lead polar excursions on a smaller boat.

If he’d learned any valuable lessons from the Explorer catastrophe, he wasn’t volunteering them.

So, five days after the Super Bowl, I gave him a call.
The first thing Mr. Wiman said was that the official report had downplayed his experience. While he’d never captained a vessel at the bottom of the world, he’d spent more than a decade navigating polar conditions up north. “It’s the same ice,”he said.

He denied he’d been overconfident or had impatiently rammed a wall of ice. He said he’d been following his training by working the ship gently back and forth to break the ice, nudge it aside, and circle around it, never going faster than one knot.

In his view, the real culprit was the wind. As he prepared to exit the ice field, he said, it kicked up considerably, causing the floes to move unpredictably. As he turned to port, he said, a chunk of ice must have been driven into the starboard hull.

By all accounts, Mr. Wiman’s well-timed decision to abandon ship almost certainly saved lives. Everyone aboard was rescued five hours later. “I did a hell of a job there,”he said.

Bruce Poon Tip, the founder of G Adventures, the Toronto-based company that owned the Explorer in 2007, agrees that Mr. Wiman did not deserve the blame.

“It was an unfortunate set of circumstances,” he said. “There’s nothing he could have done differently.”As for the report, Mr. Wiman believes investigators, mindful of insurance and liability issues, had simply made an expedient business decision.

“They made me a scapegoat,”he said, “because they knew I couldn’t afford to sue.”

In a statement, the Liberian Registry said it stands by its investigation, which was conducted with future safety in mind.

“We do not seek to apportion blame, determine liability, or strengthen any party’s litigation posture,”it said. The cause of the collision is only one mystery surrounding the Explorer.

Another is why the crew couldn’t contain the flooding. Investigators concluded, among other things, that watertight doors between compartments below deck were either leaky or left open and that the ship’s septic system had flooded, allowing water to flow into cabins through the toilets.

Mr. Wiman said he learned, after the fact, that the ship had been outfitted with a powerful emergency bilge pump that should have stopped the flood.

He does not believe the crew engaged it. He also said he learned from an inspector that the 38-year-old shell plating on the Explorer’s starboard side had been “rotten.” Mr. Poon Tip, the Explorer’s owner, denied the hull was vulnerable.

The ship had passed inspection a month before the voyage. He said he wasn’t aware of a bilge pump, but doesn’t believe it could have changed the outcome.

He said the ship was ultimately doomed by a power failure. We may never know exactly what caused the Explorer to sink, or for that matter, what went wrong inside the Rams’offense.

The important point is that something did—and nobody saw it coming.

The main reason veteran leaders rarely fail dramatically is that they’ve failed before. They’ve learned where problems come from and how to spot them in the larval stages.

Their genius is being able to identify a ship’s weakest rivets before setting sail, and formulating a plan that protects them from unsustainable pressure.

I’m not saying experience is always preferable—sometimes businesses need a dose of brash new energy.

The trick is to make sure you surround a new leader with an army of experienced deckhands, then add a few more for good measure.

Maybe all the Explorer really needed was one more gray-haired, owl-eyed engineer. In the end, Mr. Wiman had only one regret about the Explorer, which he attributed to a lack of experience. He said he should have spent more time examining the ship’s equipment and imagining how it might respond to a serious pounding.

“I have no one else to blame for that,”he said. “I should have known.”

Write to Sam Walker at sam.walker@wsj.com"
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Old 02-18-2019, 08:56 AM   #2
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Like recreational captains that claim they have been boating all their life, 60 years say....


But it's what you have experienced and learned along the way that makes the ultimate difference.
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Old 02-18-2019, 09:29 AM   #3
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"Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement."
- attributed to Mark Twain
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Old 02-18-2019, 09:33 AM   #4
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I too was puzzled by this loss. Seems the capt did not really know the ship, and where was the engr??? Seemed like there were many available damage control steps that were not taken. Sealing bulkhead doors, pumps, even dragging mattresses or blankets below the water line and let them get sucked into the breaches. Back flooding through the sanitation plumbing? No valving to isolate that system?

Lots of questions.
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Old 02-18-2019, 09:37 AM   #5
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Well, the buck stops with the captain. Not much more to say. When you are the captain you have to know that everything is your responsibility. Also, never bet against Belichick...
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Old 02-18-2019, 12:13 PM   #6
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“When you are the Captain you have to know that everything is your responsibility.”

That’s why Captain Belichick won. Go Pats!
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Old 02-18-2019, 02:31 PM   #7
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The MV Explorer was the subject of a recent Smithsonian Channel doc - will be replayed over the next few weeks.

https://www.smithsonianchannel.com/s...005669/3467456
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Old 02-19-2019, 09:49 AM   #8
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And why wouldn't the captain talk after?

Many nights I go to sleep thinking about what could happen and how would I deal with it.
It's what allows me to have the confidence to go iiib the first place.
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Old 02-19-2019, 07:28 PM   #9
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Thanks for the good article.

Quote:
The important point is that something did (go wrong - edit) —and nobody saw it coming.

The main reason veteran leaders rarely fail dramatically is that they’ve failed before. They’ve learned where problems come from and how to spot them in the larval stages.

Their genius is being able to identify a ship’s weakest rivets before setting sail, and formulating a plan that protects them from unsustainable pressure
I'm amazed that no lives were lost. Antarctic, over the side, surrrrre.

This lends to a search I've meant to make on the Trawler Forum - emergency plans. There are probably threads here on the subject but I haven't looked.

When the floorboards are floating is not the best time to learn locations for the valves on through hull fittings. That kind of stuff.

The genius comment shows we are reading an entertainment industry product. Give me a smart, hard-worker over a genius any day.

I also wonder about the Patriot hate mentality? I'm trying to link it back to the self-destructive thing. Do self-destructive people hate successful people?
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Old 02-19-2019, 07:47 PM   #10
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What a great multi faceted article. Examined multiple perspectives.

About the Pats, they only care about winning. Which is the point and still missed by other teams.
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