Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.
Issue link: http://uscgproceedings.epubxp.com/i/617100
7 Winter 2015–2016 Proceedings www.uscg.mil/proceedings Operational Excellence _ Investigation Support The Investigations National Center of Expertise has improved overall operational excellence, as demonstrated in several recent investigations. For example, on January 26, 2012, the motor vessel Delta Mariner, a U.S. Coast Guard- certifcated oceangoing vessel, allided with a bridge while heading downstream on the Tennessee River near Aurora, Kentucky. A 300-foot span of the bridge collapsed into the waterway and onto the vessel's bow, damaging its masts and navigating bridge. Fortunately, there were no deaths or major injuries as a result of this incident. After the initial U.S. Coast Guard response, the Coast Guard District Eight commander determined a formal investiga- tion was necessary. Formal investigations are extremely thorough, comprehensive, and include public hearings to establish the facts surrounding an incident. Because these types of investigations are often beyond the capability of local U.S. Coast Guard unit investigators, INV-NCOE inves- tigators stepped in to assist, getting to the scene of the acci- dent soon after it occurred. Once on scene, they leveraged their technical acumen to pull data from the navigation equipment and build a digital re-creation of the events leading up to the incident, includ- ing bridge audio. This highlighted causal factors critical to understanding the crew's decisions prior to the allision. Additionally, INV-NCOE investigators played a key role in the week-long public hearings, lending their expertise to manage the proceedings and support the lead investi- gating officer in questioning witnesses. Investigations National Center of Expertise investigators also proved integral in developing the final report of investigation analysis, conclusions, and the subsequent proposed safety recommen dations. Informing Broader Marine Safety Eforts On December 27, 2012, the motor vessel Aiviq was towing the manned Modu Kulluk on a voyage from Dutch Har- bor, Alaska, to Everett, Washington, when the towing gear failed approximately 50 nautical miles southeast of Kodiak Island, Alaska. Though the vessel owners dispatched an offshore research vessel and tug to assist the towing evolu- tion — and despite the best efforts of the vessels and crews involved — on December 31, 2012, the Modu Kulluk grounded on the southeast coast of Sitkinack Island. This highly visible casualty brought to light a number of regional and national issues, including questions regarding Arctic oil exploration emergency preparedness suffciency. The 17 th District Coast Guard commander determined the incident would be best served through a formal investiga- tion, calling once again upon the Investigations National Center of Expertise. In this instance, INV-NCOE investigators branched out from a supportive role to that of managing the entire investiga- tion. Over the next year, INV-NCOE investigators conducted public hearings and completed an exhaustive investigation report that highlighted the unique challenges of operat- ing in the Alaskan environment as well as the risks associ- ated with a single-vessel tow through the Gulf of Alaska. In response, Coast Guard leaders assembled a U.S. Coast Guard and Towing Vessel Advisory Committee workgroup specif- cally to examine lessons learned from the investigation. Legal Issues In early 2014, the U.S. Coast Guard remained the lone federal agency utilizing non-lawyers to adjudicate administrative law cases on behalf of the agency. This was frmly grounded in maritime tradition and was appropriate, as regulations clearly supported this practice. However, suspension and revocation cases, which typi- cally involve alleged merchant mariner acts of negligence, misconduct, incompetence, or alcohol or drug use, were becoming increasingly complicated. Given this complexity, the S&R NCOE became the ideal solution to address such challenges. Beginning in late 2014, the Suspension and Revocation Cen- ter of Expertise shifted from primarily a support resource for investigators to a quality-control clearinghouse for all formal complaints issued against merchant mariners. With several staff attorneys among its ranks, the S&R NCOE is able to ensure that every case complaint that goes before an administrative law judge (ALJ) is thoroughly vetted and researched in light of the most current case law. Additionally, the S&R NCOE supplies legal representation for each case that goes to a hearing before an ALJ, improv- ing the integrity of the entire U.S. Coast Guard adjudication process and ensuring local units have the support necessary to manage complex legal issues. Improved Investigator Skills _ The professional life of a U.S. Coast Guard investigator is complex, involving myriad talents and profciencies. An investigator must be skilled across a broad spectrum of operational and engineering-related vessel issues, be fully versed in regulatory standards, understand human perfor- mance, and possess a deep understanding of marine safety. As such, the NCOEs are integral to assisting and mentoring investigators in their roles as well as improving their profes- sional acumen.