Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation M-08-006
Details
Synopsis: About 0130 on Monday, May, 2007, the 300-foot passenger vessel Empress of the North, operated by Majestic America Line, grounded on a charted rock at the intersection of Lynn Canal and Icy Strait in southeastern Alaska, about 20 miles southwest of Juneau. The vessel was negotiatibg a turn west out of Lynn Canal into Icy Strait on its way to Glacier Bay, the next stop on a 7-day cruise, carrying 206 passengers and 75 crewmwmbers. The junior third mate, a newly licensed officer, was on his first navigation watch when the vessel struck the rock, known as Rocky Island, which was illuminated by a flashing green navigation light. The junior third mate, a newly licensed officer, was on his first navigation watch when the vessel struck the rock, know as Rocky Island, which was illuminated by a flashing green navigation light. The U.S. Coast Guard and several good Samaritan vessels assisted in evacuating the paasengers and nonessential crewmembers and safety transporting them back to Juneau. No injuries or pollution resulted from the accident. The vessel sustained $4.8 million in damage.
Recommendation: TO VARIOUS MARITIME ACADEMIES: Teach your students the circumstances of this accident, including their responsibility as newly licensed officers to prepare themselves for assigned duties and to express their concerns if placed insituations for which they are unprepared.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Marine
Location: Chatham Straits, AK, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA07MM015
Accident Reports:
Grounding of U.S. Passenger Vessel Empress of the North
Report #: MAR-08-02
Accident Date: 5/14/2007
Issue Date: 2/3/2009
Date Closed: 3/19/2010
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: California Maritime Academy (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Great Lakes Maritime Academy (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Massachusetts Maritime Academy (Closed - Acceptable Action)
State of Maine, Maine Maritime Academy (Closed - Acceptable Action)
State of Texas, Texas A&M University, Texas Maritime College (Closed - Acceptable Action)
SUNY Maritime College (Closed - Acceptable Action)
United States Merchant Marine Academy (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Keyword(s): Training and Education

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: SUNY Maritime College
Date: 6/11/2009
Response: The NTSB is pleased to note that SUNY Maritime College will include the lessons learned from this accident in its curricula. The NTSB further notes that case studies are already being used by the college’s instructors in courses required for all students, in all 4 years of every license degree program offered at SUNY Maritime College. The college’s practices and plans to include this accident in its curricula satisfy Safety Recommendation M-08-6; accordingly, the recommendation is classified CLOSED -- ACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: SUNY Maritime College
To: NTSB
Date: 3/18/2009
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 3/25/2009 11:40:26 AM MC# 2090170 - From Dr. Joseph C. Hoffman, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs: Thank you for your letter dated February, 3, 2009; it is an excellent follow-up to Dr. Barry Strauch’s presentation on the Empress of the North case study that was made to the Maritime Academy Council (MAC) at its December 2008 meeting in Boston. MAC consists of the chief academic officers and licensing department heads from the six state maritime academies and the US Merchant Marine Academy, so Dr. Strauch was speaking to the best possible audience to make the argument for including this case study in our curricula. We already use case studies in our license training, and will give the lessons learned from this accident the appropriate attention it deserves. These case studies are covered in a number of different courses from the freshman year to the senior year in every license degree program offered at the College. Thank you for this contribution. Respectfully submitted, Dr. Joseph C. Hoffman, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

From: NTSB
To: State of Texas, Texas A&M University, Texas Maritime College
Date: 4/8/2010
Response: On May 1, 2009, the NTSB classified Safety Recommendation M-08-6 CLOSED -- ACCEPTABLE ACTION based on a February 5, 2009, e-mail from you indicating that the accident would be discussed with all current and future students in the appropriate seamanship classes. We are pleased with the actions that Texas Maritime Academy is taking.

From: State of Texas, Texas A&M University, Texas Maritime College
To: NTSB
Date: 1/21/2010
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 2/25/2010 10:31:30 AM MC# 2100069 - From William T. McMullen, Professor of Maritime Administration and of Marine Sciences: Subject Safety Recommendation relates to teaching students the circumstances of the Empress of the North incident as described in a letter dated February 3, 2009 from the Acting Chairman of the NTSB to Vice Admiral John W. Craine, Jr., President of SUNY maritime College. Vice Admiral Craine distributed that letter to the state maritime academies and colleges. Case studies are used throughout our program at Texas Maritime Academy and this particular case is being included in our course in Bridge Resource Management which is the capstone course of our professional program to train Third Mates. The discussion is based on the complete text of the Marine Accident Report NTSBIMAR-08/02.

From: NTSB
To: State of Texas, Texas A&M University, Texas Maritime College
Date: 5/1/2009
Response: The Safety Board is pleased to note that Texas Maritime will discuss these issues with all its current and future students in the appropriate seamanship classes. Accordingly, Safety Recommendation M-08-6 is classified CLOSED -- ACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: State of Texas, Texas A&M University, Texas Maritime College
To: NTSB
Date: 2/5/2009
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 2/13/2009 8:33:11 AM MC# 2090064: 2-5-09: Email rcvd: - From William Pickavance, Texas Maritime College: This incident will be discussed/briefed during appropriate seamanship classes to all current and future students. W.W. Pickavance, Rear Admiral, USN Ret, Superintendent Texas Maritime Academy

From: NTSB
To: California Maritime Academy
Date: 5/12/2009
Response: The NTSB is pleased to note that the instructors at Cal Maritime’s marine transportation department have been using the Empress of the North grounding as a case study for classroom discussion in all appropriate courses. In the Electronic Chart Display and Information System course, Cal Maritime is using information from the Empress of the North’s voyage data recorder audio recordings of the conversations of the third mate and helmsman, the radar pictures, the electronic chart representation of the accident area, and the NTSB’s findings on the accident. The NTSB further notes that the Cal Maritime steam and diesel marine engineering program, in which students are evaluated on their preparation for watch and on their ability to understand when they need assistance and how to appropriately ask for that help, also addresses this issue. Because Cal Maritime has implemented the recommended information into its deck and engine curriculum, Safety Recommendation M-08-6 is classified CLOSED -- ACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: California Maritime Academy
To: NTSB
Date: 2/24/2009
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 3/3/2009 4:11:50 PM MC# 2090126: - From Susan Bigler, Presidential Aide: The NTSB Safety Recommendation M-08-6, dated 3 Feb 2009, recommends all federal and state maritime academics to take the following actions in the wake of the grounding of the Empress of the North: (1) Teach students the circumstances of the accident: (2) Teach students to recognize their responsibility as newly licensed officers to prepare themselves for assigned duties: and (3) Teach them to express their concerns ifs placed in situations for which they are unprepared. The California Maritime ,Academy has already implemented all three of these recommendations into our educational programs. Since the 14 May 3007 accident in Alaska, the instructors in Cal Maritime’s Maine Transportation department have been using the Empress of the North grounding as a case study for classroom discussion in all appropriate courses. Because the junior third mate of the Empress of the North was a graduate of Ca1 Maritime. Student and instructor interest in these discussions are extremely high. Audio recordings of the conversations of the third mate and helmsman, the VDR radar pictures, electronic chart representation of the accident area and all NTSB findings on the incident to date are discussed in the ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System) course. The marine engineering program has included the NTSB recommendations in the two semesters of’ steam plant simulator and in the one semester of diesel plant simulator. Students arc evaluated on their preparation for watch and on their ability to understand when they need assistance and how to appropriately ask for that help. The California Maritime Academy appreciates the Safety Board’s conclusion that, the accident did not result from deficiencies in the junior third mate‘s maritime training. We want to assure the Safety Board that we at Cal Maritime are always looking for ways to improve our program to suit the needs of a rapidly evolving industry. Cal Maritime is in the process of revising our marine transportation curriculum to better prepare our students for the rapid introduction of‘ new technologies in the maritime industry both ashore and afloat, and the breakthroughs in simulation science. The California Maritime Academy is dedicated to maintaining our continuous improvement program. We strive to use the outcomes of this and all related NTSB recommendations as part of this effort. Sincerely, RADM William B. Eisenhardt

From: NTSB
To: Great Lakes Maritime Academy
Date: 3/19/2010
Response: The NTSB notes that, in its pilotage program, the Academy take issues of watchstanding in confined spaces very seriously and makes its cadets aware of the circumstances of the accident, including their responsibility as newly licensed officers to prepare themselves for assigned duties and to express their concerns if placed in situations for which they are unprepared. To this end, the Academy discusses situations like those of the Empress of the North in its Freshman Sea Project, River Piloting, Bridge Team Management, and Engineering Watchstanding courses. In the Bridge Team Management course, cadets are placed in an unfamiliar situation and are graded both on questions they ask and on those they do not ask, but should. In the same course, the Empress of the North report is required reading and is discussed in class; the report is again read and discussed by both deck and engineering cadets aboard the first training cruise. These actions fully satisfy Safety Recommendation M-08-6; accordingly, the recommendation is classified CLOSED -- ACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: Great Lakes Maritime Academy
To: NTSB
Date: 11/9/2009
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 11/11/2009 2:04:48 PM MC# 2090680 - From John G. Tanner, Superintendent: Thanks you for the letter dated October 29, 2009 referring to your February 3, 2009 letter concerning “Teaching Students circumstances of this Accident (Empress of the North), including their responsibilities as newly Licensed Officers to prepare themselves for assigned duties and to express their concern if placed in situations for which they are unprepared.” Captain Surgalski of our Navigation Department and our training ship Captain contacted your office in March 2009 and the Administrative Secretary, Judi Rokos, e-mailed Mr. Mike Brown on August 13, 2009 so we thought the request was resolved, evidently not. Great Lakes Maritime Academy (GLMA) discusses situations as above in the following courses: MDK 210 - Freshman Sea project MDK 222 - River Piloting MDK 346 - Bridge Team Management MNG 355 - Engineering Watchstanding In our Bridge Team Management, Cadets are placed in an unfamiliar situation and are graded on questions they ask or don’t ask. Also, the report on the “Empress of the North” is read by every cadet in Bridge Team Management and then discussed in class. This report is again read and discussed by all cadets aboard the first training cruise, Deck and Engineering. Being a Pilotage program, we at GLMA take issues of watchstanding in confined spaces very serious. I apologize for this perceived lack of response. Sincerely, John G. Tanner, RADM, USMS, Superintendent

From: NTSB
To: United States Merchant Marine Academy
Date: 6/11/2009
Response: The NTSB is pleased to note that instructors at the USMMA started teaching their cadets about the issues addressed in this recommendation beginning in 2001 in the USMMA’s Bridge Watchstanding course. The NTSB further notes that the USMMA has incorporated the NTSB’s full report on the Empress of the North in the Bridge Watchstanding course as a case study and that the principles referred to in the NTSB’s recommendations are already a part of the standing orders on the USMMA’s training vessel Kings Pointer. All deck instructors are now required to familiarize themselves with the NTSB’s Empress of the North report and to refer to the findings and recommendations as appropriate in each of the nautical science courses in the deck curriculum. In addition, the guidance provided in the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended in 1995, section B-I/14, paragraphs 3 and 4, Responsibilities of Crewmembers, is being stressed in light of the NTSB’s recommendation. These actions on the part of the USMMA satisfy Safety Recommendation M-08-6; accordingly, the recommendation is classified CLOSED -- ACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: United States Merchant Marine Academy
To: NTSB
Date: 3/2/2009
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 3/18/2009 12:00:56 PM MC# 2090158 - From Allen B. Worley, Rear Admiral, Superintendent: The USMMA is pleased to say that the key issues touched upon in this accident have long been a part of our curriculum but were stated more clearly in 2001 when the Academy submitted the DN 460, Bridge Watchstanding syllabus and course outline for US Coast Guard approval. The course was submitted for approval as part of our overall effort to comply with the terms of the STCW, 1995. This course is required of all deck cadets and is offered as a capstone experience in the senior year. It relies very heavily on the state of the art full mission bridge simulator commonly known as CAORF. In addition to this long standing practice, we have decided to incorporate the Safety Board’s full report on the Empress of the North in the course DN 460 as a case study. In combination with our Bridge Watchstanding course, valuable training is provided and experiences gained on board the Academy’s training vessel Kings Pointer. It should be noted that the principles referred to in the Board’s recommendations are already a part of the standing orders on that vessel. Plans are underway for immediate implementation in our Department of Marine Transportation where each and every instructor in the Deck program will be required to familiarize themselves with the Safety Board’s report in this case and to refer to the findings and recommendations as appropriate in each of the Nautical Science courses in the Deck curriculum. Finally, the guidance provided in the STCW, 1995 Section B-I/14 para. 3 and 4 regarding the responsibilities of crewmembers will be stressed in concert with the Board’s recommendations as outlined above. We are including, for your review, the Bridge Watchstanding course syllabus and grading sheets at the attached. We trust that the measures discussed herein meet the intent of the Safety Board’s valuable recommendations in this case. Sincerely, Allen B. Worley, Rear Admiral, USMS, Superintendent

From: NTSB
To: Massachusetts Maritime Academy
Date: 10/27/2009
Response: NMC# 103312: The NTSB is pleased to note that the Academy is making its students aware of the circumstances of the accident, including their responsibility as newly licensed officers to prepare themselves for assigned duties and to express their concerns if placed in situations for which they are unprepared. Per the NTSB recommendation, this issue is now addressed in the following courses: MT 2121, Coastal Navigation 2: MT 4131, Applied Shiphandling 2; MT 4251, Marine Safety; and MT 4371, Sea Term IV–Senior Cruise. These actions fully satisfy Safety Recommendation M-08-6; accordingly, the recommendation is classified CLOSED -- ACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: Massachusetts Maritime Academy
To: NTSB
Date: 6/15/2009
Response: CAPT Dalton reports that Mass Maritime is making its students aware of the circumstances of the accident, including their responsibility as newly licensed officers to prepare themselves for assigned duties and to express their concerns if placed in situations for which they are unprepared, as per the NTSB recommendations within the following courses: MT 2121 Coastal Navigation 2, MT 4131 Applied Shiphandling 2, MT 4251 Marine Safety, and MT 4371 Sea Term IV - Senior Cruise. Because Mass. Maritime has taken action as requested, I recommend that Safety Recommendation M-08-6 be classified Closed Acceptable Action.

From: NTSB
To: State of Maine, Maine Maritime Academy
Date: 8/12/2009
Response: The NTSB notes that the Academy has discussed this issue with its cadets, devoting extra attention to the accident since receiving the recommendation. Particular attention was given to the recommendation in the senior Watchkeeping capstone course. In addition, the Academy has committed to increasing its emphasis on the issue in the future, ensuring that all senior cadets receive instruction about the circumstances of the accident and their responsibilities, as described in the recommendation, prior to graduation. Accordingly, Safety Recommendation M-08-6 is classified CLOSED -- ACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: State of Maine, Maine Maritime Academy
To: NTSB
Date: 4/16/2009
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 4/16/2009 3:52:20 PM MC# 2090234 - From Sam Teel, Professor of Marine Transportation: I did receive the M-08-6 report from NTSB and the recommendation via President Tyler and my department Chairperson, Capt Ralph Pundt. I can assure the Board that the subject has been discussed and covered. I would say that we have always addressed this subject, but this year we certainly gave it extra time in class. I will continue to bring this topic up each successive year as the seniors approach graduation. In our senior Watchkeeping capstone course we handed out M-08-6 report to all members of the class and thoroughly discussed it. I apologize on behalf of Maine Maritime for not getting back to you sooner on this matter. Sincerely, Sam Teel, Professor of Marine Transportation, Department of Marine Transportation, Maine Maritime Academy, Castine, Maine, 04420.