Honorable Deborah Hersman, NTSB Board Member

Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman
National Transportation Safety Board
Closing Statement
Allision of Passenger Ferry Seastreak Wall Street with Pier 11
Lower Manhattan, New York City
January 9, 2013
Washington, DC – April 8, 2014
(As Prepared for Delivery)


In closing, I want to recognize the NTSB staff for their hard work in developing and presenting this excellent safety report. Investigator-in-Charge Morgan Turrell and his team did a terrific job. I want to also thank my fellow Board members for their participation today.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that to truly master a skill, from archery to playing the violin, one needs 10,000 hours of practice. That's 5 years of 40-hour weeks. By all accounts, the accident captain was qualified, experienced and conscientious. He was the number one captain, he'd delivered this vessel for the company and trained other company captains, and he was a man that other crew members looked up to.

Yes, our report identified that the final error was made by the Captain on the day of the accident, but the first vulnerabilities were designed into the system years before. Accidents, like a fraying rope, are always a series of missed opportunities, but the blame typically falls on the final strand in a rope that breaks – often it is the human being.

The value of training must be maximized within a holistic safety management system, or SMS. Strong and relevant instructional design, robust maintenance procedures, manuals that can guide operators through real-world occurrences, recognition that newer equipment demands new procedures and training, and many other factors must support every person whose duties affect vessel safety.

Just as important, a robust safety management system means investigating seemingly minor incidents: procedures for noting and investigating the causes of minor failures that could lead to major ones.

Seastreak is working on an SMS intended to meet all these goals – just as New York City's Department of Transportation did after the first accident involving the Barberi.

But these are both cases of SMSs developed after an accident.

By requiring SMSs on all passenger vessels, we may prevent the next accident, or mitigate its effects – rather than meet again in this Board room to adopt a major accident investigation report.

Finally, requiring a Voyage Data Recorder or VDR on every passenger vessel will help all who pursue vessel safety.

The VDR may be one tool for the operator to investigate an incident, so that an accident never occurs; for the NTSB, a VDR greatly amplifies the lessons we can learn from an accident, to help prevent similar accidents in the future.

Safety is indeed a voyage, not a destination. I would add that the voyage is no solitary adventure. Rather, it is a continuous effort from the shipyard to the dock.

We stand adjourned.