Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Bookmark and Share this page


Board Meeting: Fire On Board US Small Passenger Vessel ISLAND LADY, Pithlachascotee River Near Port Richey, Florida, January 14, 2018 - Closing Statement
Robert L. Sumwalt
NTSB Boardroom and Conference Center

​In closing, I would like to thank the staff for your hard work. I also want to thank my colleagues for their preparation going into the board meeting, and for the good debate and discussion.

My thanks to the entire investigative team, but not only that team. Everything at the NTSB takes a more expansive effort. On behalf of the Board, a sincere “thank you” to the support and program staff who supported this investigation as well.

The NTSB works closely with the Coast Guard in marine investigations. The Coast Guard is committed to safety; in fact, one of its precursors was even called the “United States Lifesaving Service."

But the NTSB provides a needed independent view that can help to improve both the marine industry and the Coast Guard itself.

Today we saw a vessel that passed inspection with level indicators constructed of plastic tubing, when regulations clearly demand heat resistant material. We hope that our recommendation for a Marine Safety Information Bulletin helps to prevent such practices.

More broadly, we hope that our recommendations for required preventive maintenance programs, crew firefighting training, fire detection systems in unmanned spaces, and safety management systems (SMS) are acted upon.

And a word on SMS: “Safety Management System” is three straight nouns. It makes us expect that we can buy a binder stamped “SMS” and be done with it. We can’t.

Let’s dig out the hidden verb: an SMS is a business process for managing safety. Written documents are necessary for an SMS, but they are not sufficient.

Safety is not something you have -- it is something you do. And it’s something you must do continually.

The recommendations issued and reiterated today, if acted upon, will result in continual efforts toward better-maintained vessels, better-trained crews, and better safety management.

We stand adjourned.