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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation M-17-014
Details
Synopsis: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is providing the following information to urge the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Weather Service (NWS; a component of NOAA), and the US Coast Guard to take action on the safety recommendations in this report. The recommendations address, in the interest of mariner safety, the development of tropical cyclone information and its availability to mariners. The recommendations derive primarily from factual information gathered during the NTSB’s ongoing investigation into the sinking of cargo vessel El Faro on October 1, 2015. The factual data revealed that critical tropical cyclone information issued by the NWS is not always available to mariners via well-established broadcast methods. The data also suggest that modifying the way the NWS develops certain tropical cyclone forecasts and advisories could help mariners at sea better understand and respond to tropical cyclones. Further, factual data on the official forecasts for Hurricane Joaquin and other recent tropical cyclones suggest that a new emphasis on improving hurricane forecasts is warranted. The NTSB has yet to determine the probable cause of, or contributing factors in, El Faro’s sinking. Nevertheless, based on the meteorological facts gathered thus far, plus discussions with the NWS and the Coast Guard, the NTSB makes ten recommendations in this report. Two recommendations are addressed to NOAA, seven to the NWS, and one to the Coast Guard.
Recommendation: TO THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE: Ensure that tropical cyclone graphic products issued by entities such as the National Hurricane Center, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, the Guam Weather Forecast Office, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, and Fleet Weather Center–Norfolk are made available in near-real time via the FTPmail service.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Acceptable Response
Mode: Marine
Location: 36 NM Northeast Crooked Island Bahamas, AO, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA16MM001
Accident Reports: Tropical Cyclone Information for Mariners Sinking of US Cargo Vessel SS El Faro Atlantic Ocean, Northeast of Acklins and Crooked Island, BahamasSinking of the US Cargo Vessel El Faro: Illustrated Digest
Report #: MSR-17-02
Accident Date: 10/1/2015
Issue Date: 6/29/2017
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: United States Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service (Open - Acceptable Response)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: United States Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service
To: NTSB
Date: 7/14/2019
Response: -From John D. Murphy, Chief Operating Officer, NOAA National Weather Service: NWS has focused its initial progress on this action on ensuring all key black and white graphical NWS tropical products are available via FTPmail. Currently available in the Atlantic are: surface charts, tropical cyclone charts (tropical cyclone danger areas), high seas forecasts, and satellite imagery. Currently available in the Pacific are: wind/wave charts (SE Pacific, including tropical sea state analysis, tropical surface analysis, and tropical surface forecast), tropical cyclone charts (tropical cyclone danger areas), sea surface temperature charts, and satellite imagery. NOAA NWS believes color graphical products can be added to the directory hosting these black and white graphical products without requiring the assignment of specific World Meteorological Organization headers, and has begun pursuing this. NWS compared file sizes between color and black and white versions of NWS marine graphics, finding that the different versions are comparable in file size. Therefore, these existing color versions should be able to be made available for FTPmail request. The next step is to identify existing NWS color graphical products to add to the directory for availability, and then update the master list of available products. NWS requests NTSB input on this list of products to include, and will continue to engage users on this issue. Following discussion with the NTSB and confirmation of the product list to be added, NOAA estimates this work can be completed within six months. In tandem to this process, upon making progress on the color products, NWS will also continue to explore the possibility and practicality of making publicly available Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) and/or Fleet Weather Center Norfolk information available via FTPmail. As was conveyed at the May 2018 in person meeting the NWS has concerns about implied accuracy of external agency’s products without direct oversight of quality control. Once that determination is made, the work to ingest and disseminate these products is estimated to take up to one year.

From: NTSB
To: United States Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service
Date: 4/22/2019
Response: We are pleased to learn that the NWS can add additional products to the FTPmail service, and that it plans to identify products that are compatible with the FTPmail service. We note, however, that the NWS does not plan to include products that have been developed by the JTWC or the Fleet Weather Center–Norfolk. Although the NWS is not responsible for products developed by these agencies, because they are available online to the public, we encourage you to make them available via the FTPmail service. Pending completion of the recommended action, Safety Recommendation M-17-14 is classified OPEN--ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: United States Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service
To: NTSB
Date: 7/15/2018
Response: -From Andrew Stern, Director, Analyze, Forecast, and Support Office, NOAA/ National Weather Service: I would like to bring to your attention increased support that NWS is providing to the U.S. Coast Guard with respect to improving dissemination of hazards in the oceanic domain. Starting last week, the NWS Ocean Prediction Center, in coordination with the National Hurricane Center and the NWS National Operations Center began providing weekly PPT briefings to USCG District 5. Note in the attached Memo from OPC to the NWS Chief Operating Officer that the actions fully support safety recommendations from the NTSB El Faro report. The second attached file, called "Briefing Slides.pdf", contains briefing slides from last week. The first two slides were presented to the USCG on July 9 and highlighted hazards associated with cyclones Chris and Beryl. The 3rd and 4th slides show updates to NWS leadership regarding oceanic impacts from Hurricane Chris. Slide 3 shows AIS data and ship avoidance maneuvers in advance of Chris - leaving a mostly ship free northeastward slot. Slide 4 shows a tanker who appeared to move close to or through the eye wall. OPC later reported that the tanker turned northwest and headed toward the NY Bight once the storm had passed. The NWS continues to improve decision support services with our core partners in support of transportation safety. Thought that you would be interested.

From: United States Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service
To: NTSB
Date: 6/22/2018
Response: -From Andrew D. Stern, Director, National Weather Service, Analyze, Forecast and Support Office: In progress, alternative recommended, per discussion with NTSB. There are many graphical products issued by national centers with tropical cyclone responsibilities. The NWS does have the ability to add additional products to FTPMail. However, the NWS would need to identify which of these text/graphical products would be appropriate for this low bandwidth service. The NWS cannot offer products from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, and Fleet Weather Center-Norfolk through this service. The NWS is not responsible for products produced by these agencies and cannot assure delivery. In addition, products from JTWC could be in conflict with official tropical cyclone forecasts issued by official WMO designated Regional Specialized Meteorological Centers that have tropical cyclone forecast responsibility in various parts of the world. The NWS will work with the NTSB and other marine organizations to identify any new low bandwidth products to add to the suite of products available via FTPmail.

From: NTSB
To: United States Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service
Date: 2/20/2018
Response: We disagree that action to satisfy this recommendation cannot be achieved by enhancing the current software and would require a new type of software for the FTPmail service. We believe that assigning a World Meteorological Organization number is the primary action needed to distribute the products over the FTPmail service, and we disagree that action to satisfy the recommendation must address the entire FTPmail system infrastructure. Pending your completing the recommended action, Safety Recommendation M 17 14 is classified OPEN--UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: United States Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service
To: NTSB
Date: 11/30/2017
Response: -From Andrew D. Stern, Director, Analyze, Forecast, and Support Office, National Weather Service: For the NTSB's consideration, the practices recommended here cannot be achieved through enhancement of the current software and would require a new type of software for the ftpmail service. The FTPMail software does not offer the features the report recommends. NAVTEX is a medium frequency (518 kHz), direct-printing service for the delivery of navigational and meteorological warnings and is part of the Global Marine Distress Safety System. The nine NAVTEX forecasts prepared by the NWS are designed to accommodate the listening area of the nine respective transmitters. Even though the required listening area is only within 200 nm of the sea buoy near the transmitter, most NWS NAVTEX products are extended for continuous cover of all waters within 200 nm of the CON US coastline. Thus, NAVTEX is not a suitable service for dissemination of tropical cyclone information beyond 200 nm in the Offshore Waters Forecast (OFF) domain, and most of the High Seas Forecast (HSF) domain. NAVTEX messages are restricted to less than 89 lines, and messages exceeding that amount are often truncated. Additionally, meteorological messages are lower priority than navigational safety messages, ice reports, search and rescue information and piracy alerts. Thus, NAVTEX is not a guaranteed dissemination service for all tropical cyclone information. HF Voice: The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) should be contacted as for the feasibility of using the "Iron Mike" synthesized voice system to disseminate the tropical cyclone Forecast Advisory (TCM). However, this change could be considered an unnecessary duplication of the tropical cyclone information contained within the HSFs and OFFs which are already disseminated via HF Voice. HF SITOR: The USCG currently broadcasts the HSFs from four communication stations in the SITOR mode. Tropical cyclone information is contained within the HSF. Additionally, the HSF provides a forecast of the radius of 12-foot seas beyond the initial conditions contained within the TCM product. Forecasts are also provided for sub-tropical-storm-force winds of 20-33 knots and seas of 8 to 12 feet surrounding the forecasted tropical storm force wind (34-knot radii) and 12-foot radii. Additionally, the transmission range of the SJTOR broadcast is dependent upon operating frequency, time of day, and atmospheric conditions - and can vary from only short distances to several thousand miles. An additional consideration is the inclusion in the recommendation of the dissemination of forecast graphics that are produced by the Department of Defense (DOD). These may not be cleared for public distribution.

From: NTSB
To: United States Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service
Date: 6/29/2017
Response: On June 20, 2017, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) adopted its safety recommendation report Tropical Cyclone Information for Mariners, related to the October 1, 2015, sinking of cargo vessel El Faro. Additional information about this accident and the resulting recommendations may be found in the safety recommendation report, which can be accessed at our website, www.ntsb.gov, under report number NTSB/MSR-17/02. As a result of this investigation, we issued two recommendations to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one recommendation to the US Coast Guard, and the following seven recommendations to the National Weather Service.