Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman
Good morning. Welcome to the Boardroom of the National Transportation Safety Board. I am Debbie Hersman, and it is my privilege to serve as Chairman of the NTSB. Joining me are my fellow Board members: Vice Chairman Chris Hart, Member Robert Sumwalt, Member Mark Rosekind and Member Earl Weener. I'd like to recognize Member Sumwalt for his excellent service as spokesman for our on-scene investigative activities.
Today, we meet in open session, as required by the Government in the Sunshine Act, to consider the commuter ferry accident on January 9, 2013, in which the Seastreak Wall Street struck a Manhattan pier, injuring 80 people (4 of them seriously).
On behalf of my fellow Board members and the entire NTSB staff, I offer our wishes for their fullest possible recovery. We know that some of your lives were changed forever by this accident. It is our goal that these findings and recommendations will help prevent similar accidents in the future.
The Seastreak Wall Street's passengers boarded that Wednesday morning expecting to arrive safely in Manhattan, to make their daily living. Instead, some suffered injuries so severe they are lucky to be alive.
In this investigation, we have learned many details: we have learned about the modes of operation of the Seastreak Wall Street and the design of the ferry's control panels and alarm indicators. We have learned new lessons in the course of this investigation.
But we have also had occasion to revisit a lesson long ago learned, but still not applied to this ferry: We will hear about the lack of a safety management system, or SMS, at Seastreak LLC. The use of SMSs in the maritime industry began with the sinking of the British ferry Herald of Free Enterprise in 1987, in which 193 people died. Since then they have been adapted to all modes of transportation.
Yet in New York Harbor, in 2003, the Andrew J. Barberi struck a pier at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, killing 10 and injuring 70; an eleventh passenger died two months later. The Barberi was operating without an SMS. We recommended that the Coast Guard seek the authority to require SMSs on all domestic passenger vessels. The Coast Guard subsequently acquired this authority.
In 2010, the very same ferry struck a terminal on Staten Island. But New York City's Department of Transportation had implemented an SMS on its ferries and trained its personnel in its procedures. We noted this improvement, and recommended that the Coast Guard use its authority to require SMSs throughout domestic marine transportation.
Yet today, we are investigating another ferry accident in New York Harbor in which there was no SMS. We know that SMSs can prevent accidents, save lives, and reduce the incidence and severity of injuries. Yet such systems are still not required. A lesson long ago learned, but still not applied.
Finally, we will also hear about lessons we could not learn for this accident, since the Seastreak Wall Street carried no Voyage Data Recorder, or VDR — nor was it required to. VDRs preserve critical evidence that helps investigators determine what happened. While investigators are confident of the facts that they could establish, the lack of a VDR hindered us in fully understanding this accident.
It is my hope that through our recommendations today we help to prevent a recurrence of similar accidents, and to learn all the lessons from any future accidents.
Acting Managing Director Klejst, will you please introduce the staff.