What is the single most import piece of electronics aboard your ship? For me it’s the EPIRB. If all else fails I will need help fast and the EPIRB is the most reliable and accurate way to get your position to the RCC.
We were first notified of this story by Capt. Richard Rodriguez in the Maritime News Discoverer article titled: “Ship’s automatic beacon didn’t send distress call” and when I read this I immediately notified fellow blogger Rob Stormer. Those of you who follow this blog regularly will remember our previous collaborations on the S/V Sean Seamour’s close call after an EPIRB failure and the captain’s Lessons Learned from the experience.
Rob and the editors of gCaptain are all concerned about an emerging pattern so we have collaborated again to bring you the story of the EPIRB failure and resultant fatalities aboard the fishing vessel “Papa George” last week. Here is the resulting article, a must read for all interested in Safety at Sea:
Seems we have another boat that had a possible malfunction of its EPIRB. Only this time there were two deaths involved.
Both John and I are very active in the investigation of the malfunction of the ACR 406 Globalfix EPIRB that malfunctioned onboard the s/v Sean Seamour II and we have reached out to parties regarding the f/v Papa George incident. Both John and I cannot stress how these types of incidents impact everyone in the maritime community. So we are putting out a maritime wide alert and request for information.
The 80-foot boat was owned by Steve and Holly Lovejoy who own and operate Papa George Gourmet Albacore & Seafoods in Portland, Oregon.The following is the forensic notification and alert to mariners of the sinking by the National Weather Service in Portland Oregon dated 3 September 2007 355AM.
"069 NOUS56 KPQR 031054 OAVPQR NOTIFICATION REPORT NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE WFO PORTLAND OR 355 AM PDT MON SEP 3 2007 TO: FORENSIC SERVICES MANAGER (W/OS52) NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE C/O TELECOMMUNICATIONS GATEWAY SILVER SPRING, MARYLAND 20910 INFO: WESTERN REGION HEADQUARTERS ATTN: MARINE PROGRAM MANAGER ALPHA VESSEL NAME...F/V PAPA GEORGE VESSEL TYPE...FISHING VESSEL VESSEL SIZE...APPROXIMATELY 80 FEET BRAVO: LOCATION........ABOUT 12 MILES OFF THE LONG BEACH PENINSULA, WASHINGTON. MARINEZONE PZZ250. DATE............09/03/07 INCIDENT TIME...0130 UTC, TIME OF RESCUE. CHARLIE: DETAILS OF ACCIDENT...APPARENTLY VESSEL RAPIDLY TOOK ON WATER THEN SANK. 5 ABOARD: 2 FATALITIES. FROM A NEWS REPORT: POSTED BY THE OREGONIAN SEPTEMBER 02, 2007 -23:41PM. TWO COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN DROWNED OFF THE COAST OF LONG BEACH, WASH., TODAY AND THREE FELLOW FISHERMEN MADE IT TO SHORE AFTER THEIR BOAT SANK, THE COAST GUARD SAID. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE SINKING OF THE PAPA GEORGE, A 70- TO 86-FOOT "SEINER" CRAFT, IS UNDER INVESTIGATION, SAID PETTY OFFICER SHAWN EGGERT. THE NAMES AND AGES OF THE VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS WERE NOT BEING RELEASED TONIGHT, EGGERT SAID. EARLY REPORTS INDICATE THE PAPA GEORGE TOOK ON WATER AND SANK RAPIDLY ABOUT 12 NAUTICAL MILES OFF THE LONG BEACH SHORE, BUT THE SURVIVORS WERE ABLE TO BOARD A SKIFF, EGGERT SAID. THE BODIES OF THE VICTIMS, A WOMAN AND A MAN, WERE ALSO ABOARD THE SKIFF WHEN IT WAS MET AT THE SHORE BY RESCUE WORKERS ABOUT 6:30 P.M., SAID EGGERT, A SPOKESMAN BASED IN SEATTLE. HE DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TIME THE PAPA GEORGE SANK. HE SAID COAST GUARD INVESTIGATORS WOULD INTERVIEW THE SURVIVORS MONDAY. NONE OF THE SURVIVORS NEEDED HOSPITALIZATION, HE SAID. EGGERT SAID THE BOAT APPEARS TO HAVE SUNK BEFORE ANY OF THE CREW WAS ABLE TO START A DISTRESS SIGNAL OR CALL FOR HELP. "IT SOUNDS LIKE THEY WERE IN A RUSH TO GET OFF THEIR VESSEL," EGGERT SAID.ANOTHER COAST GUARD OFFICIAL, ENSIGN JOSHUA MATTULAT OF PORTLAND,SAID THE BOAT HAD BEEN FISHING FOR SARDINES." According to NWS Portland the weather that day was typical for that time of year. Two weather buoy's report sea states at: BUOY 46211 (GRAYS HARBOR WAVERIDER) - reported seas at 5'/08, and, BOUY 46029 (COLUMBIA RIVER) - reported 6'/08. Weather conditions were not outside the norm for this part of the Country and or its season. It is not our intent to investigate the cause of the sinking that is the job of the United States Coast Guard. But it is our intention to investigate the cause of the possible malfunction of the EPIRB. This would represent the second reported EPIRB to malfunction in four months. As of this writing we cannot stress enough that all mariners must ensure thattheir EPIRBs are not just in operational condition, that the registration matches the face plate on their EPIRBs, but also that the r registration actually matches the hexadecimal code in the NOAA database. Fred Fry of Fred Fry International asks us to also remind all mariners that its important to check your EPIRB ona monthly basis. Hector Castro of the SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER is reporting on the incident, Ship's automatic beacon didn't send distress call SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/330379_papageorge06.htm Papa George, which sank Sunday, passed 2006 safety inspection
Last updated September 5, 2007 7:10 p.m. PT
By HECTOR CASTRO
An inspection last year found that the F/V Papa George had a working emergency beacon that should have gone off when the boat sank off the Washington coast Sunday night.
But it didn’t.
Coast Guard officials said the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon is designed to automatically transmit a distress signal when immersed in water.
“We do not know why it did not go off,” said Dan Hardin, commercial fishing vessel safety coordinator for the 13th Coast Guard District.
The Papa George, a Louisiana shrimper converted to operate as a troller and purse seiner, capsized and sank about 12 miles off the coast of Long Beach. The skipper, David H. Starbuck, 61, and crew member Ethel J. Zenaya, 37, both died. The three other crew members survived, making it to shore aboard a skiff, bringing with them the bodies of their two mates.
The boat was owned by Seattle-based Papa George Gourmet Albacore & Seafoods. The company has not returned calls for comment.
Commercial fishing vessels are not required to be inspected by the Coast Guard, Hardin said, but the Papa George had a dockside inspection June 15, 2006, while it was in Southern California. Such inspections are typically made at the request of vessel owners, he said.
“That indicates to me somebody that’s interested with complying with the regulations and ensuring they have all their safety equipment on board,” Hardin said.
Inspectors gave the Papa George crew a list of safety improvements to make, then conducted a second inspection June 24, 2006. At that time, the vessel was found to have all necessary safety equipment, including the emergency beacon.
“It would have been examined,” Hardin said.
The problem with the emergency beacon is just one question still to be answered, and the sinking itself remains under investigation.
Coast Guard officials have said it appears there was simply too much water on the boat, causing it to capsize and tossing the crew into the water.
Just before the accident, the crew was pumping water on and off to chill its load of sardines, estimated at 40 to 60 tons, according to the Coast Guard.
Bob Alverson of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association said the practice is routine on many fishing vessels, particularly those hauling in sardines.
“They kind of have to do that with sardines because they go bad so fast,” Alverson said.
But, he added, bringing water on board is always risky, pushing the boat lower, even pushing the vessel around from inside with its own wave action.
Starbuck’s niece, Jacque Ford, said she knows her uncle had been concerned about the boat’s pump, but doesn’t know if it was still a problem. She doubted he would have knowingly sailed a dangerous boat.
“My uncle was a very safe person. He didn’t take risks like that,” Ford said. “If you were on his boat, he felt very much in charge of your safety.”
The former Marine was a lifelong fisherman who lived to joke and laugh, she said.
“He was the kind of man whose presence filled the whole room,” Ford said.
Starbuck had two adult daughters from an earlier marriage, both living in Washington. Most recently, he and Zenaya lived in Oxnard, Calif. Zenaya’s two teenage daughters have gone to Florida to live with an aunt, Ford said.
Starbuck’s family said he was exactly the kind of skipper to go down with his ship.
“If he had lived and any of his crew had died, that would have killed him,” his niece said. “He was just a very special man, and we all miss him very much.”
P-I reporter Hector Castro can be reached at 206-448-8334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Again anyone with any information can contact either Captain John Konrad at gCaptain or Rob Stormer at Robin Storm,
From the watch bridge; John Konrad and Rob Stormer
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