Damage Control on Merchant Vessels
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Damage Control on Merchant Vessels


Background:Recent findings concerning the loss of the Titanic have initiated interest in studying the possibility of instating a form of active damage control in merchant vessels, and especially in passenger ships. The Titanic was sunk, not due to a large breach of the hull, but rather to several small openings spread along the forward part of the ship. Hypothetically, a well-trained, well-equipped damage-control team probably could have plugged the holes so that flooding would have been slowed considerably or perhaps even stopped, to the point that the ship might have stayed afloat long enough for rescue ships to arrive on the scene to provide extra lifeboats and retrieve people from the water. Even though all merchant ships, and particularly passenger ships, have become far safer since the Titanic disaster, the danger of sinking and/or fatalities due to flooding remains a very real concern. For example, since 1950 there have been over 26 major flooding casualties on large passenger vessels, some with loss of life. Data on these casualties can be found in the following documents: Background of the Draft Harmonized Regulation and Flooding Casualties on Passenger Vessels Causing Personnel Evacuation and Loss of Life: 1950-1997 The recent experience of the grounding and flooding of the Monarch of the Seas in December 1998 serves as a reminder that, even with modern Navigation systems and highly trained crews, merchant ships still remain at risk from flooding casualties. In those situations, human intervention for damage control in the form of a well-trained, well-equipped damage-control team combined with improved design and technology could spell the difference between the loss of the ship and its people, or saving them. Project Proposal: To this end, the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME), specifically the Marine Forensics Panel (SD-7) with support from the Marine Safety and Environmental Protection Panel (O-44) and Ship Stability Panel (SD-3), is proposing a research project to study whether the engineering staff of merchant vessels should be trained and equipped to control major casualties (yet ensure that passengers and crew are safely off the ship in a reasonable amount of time), as an adjunct to improved technology and design. The objective would be to formulate a proposal to the international Maritime community regarding the equipping and training of its crew to effectively perform damage control. Emphasis will be placed on vessels carrying large numbers of passengers (such as cruise ships and large ferries), though the overall results should benefit the merchant marine community as a whole.

View this Proposal

For further information or to assist in this project, please contact Larrie D. Ferreiro
Integrated with this effort, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at King's Point (USA) is pursuing a student research project for its Spring 1999 term on damage control practices for merchant vessels. The goals for the project are to:

  1. Begin the development of a database, starting with passenger ships and ferries, that identify flooding casualties and precursor events for future analysis;
  2. Review the national and international rules and regulations concerning these types of ships, their construction and operation from the point of view of control of damage after accidents.
For further information or to assist in this project, please contact John Tuttle
Larrie D. Ferreiro, P.E., C.Eng., Eur Ing
Risk/Systems Engineer and Naval Architect
US Coast Guard HQ, G-MSE-3
#2100 2nd St SW, Washington D.C. 20593-0001
tel: +1-202-267-0021 fax: +1-202-267-4816 To express your views please visit our Discussion Forum


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