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 National Transportation Safety Board. Joining me are my fellow Board members: Vice Chairman Chris Hart, Member Robert Sumwalt, Member Mark Rosekind, and Member Earl Weener.
Today, we meet in open session, as required by the Government in the Sunshine Act, to consider the January 23, 2010, accident in which the oil tankship Eagle Otome collided with the general cargo vessel Gull Arrow. Then a barge that was being pushed by the towboat Dixie Vengeance, collided with the Eagle Otome tearing a hole that released about 462,000 gallons of crude oil into the Sabine-Neches Canal.
Over the past several weeks, the Board Members have read the proposed staff report and individually met with NTSB staff to discuss the draft. Today, however, is the first time that all of the Board Members are meeting together to discuss it.
Staff will make presentations on the major issues of the accident investigation. The presentations will be followed by questions from the Board Members. We will then consider the conclusions, probable cause, and safety recommendations. Because these are the Board's actual deliberations on the report, it may be revised as a result of actions taken during this meeting. Approximately 30 minutes after we conclude, an abstract of this report will be posted on the NTSB's website.
I'd like to recognize the groups that responded to the collision and recognize the parties that participated in our investigation.
The nation's Marine Transportation System consists of some 25,000 miles of navigable channels and more than 300 ports. More than 95 percent of overseas trade and one-fourth of domestic trade moves by ship — including more than three billion barrels of oil each year.
Maritime traffic is expected to grow in both volume and complexity. This growth presents a number of safety challenges, including increased congestion and larger vessels. These both will require the full, undistracted attention of well-rested pilots. The Coast Guard has said that, "The changing nature of marine transportation poses increased risk to safe vessel transits, to the marine environment, and to quality of human life in the vicinity of ports."
These are all strong reasons to take a close look at what happened in the Sabine-Neches Canal last year. We need to do what we can to prevent future accidents and improve the safety of our increasingly busy waterways.
Dr. Mayer, will you please introduce the staff.