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February 12, 2004

GMATS recommends changes in S.I. Ferry operations


New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Iris Weinshall today unveiled the Global Maritime and Transportation School (GMATS) investigation into the Staten Island ferry operation. 

The report, commissioned by the City after the October 15 tragedy aboard the Andrew J. Barberi, recommends better training, enhanced safety, greater use of technology and more employee accountability at the Staten Island Ferry.  The Mayor was joined by Captain Christopher J. McMahon, Director of the Global Maritime and Transportation School, Captain Craig E. Bone, Captain of the Port, United States Coast Guard and Rear Admiral Robert C. North, United States Coast Guard (Retired), President North Star Maritime, Inc.

"For nearly 100 years the Staten Ferry had carried hundreds of millions of passengers without a fatality," said Mayor Bloomberg.  "The horrible ferry crash of October 15 made it critical that we fully evaluate the operations of the ferry. The City retained GMATS and charged them with fully reviewing and assessing the operations of the ferry. We will work with all interested parties to implement the recommendations in this report as quickly as possible." 

"The GMATS team scrutinized Staten Island Ferry operations with a degree of professionalism, dispassion and knowledge that the Ferry has never received before," said Commissioner Weinshall.  "In addition, their recommendations were closely scrutinized by Retried Rear Admiral Robert North, the former captain of the New York Port.  We owed it to the people of New York and our more than 18 million annual passengers to undergo this type of comprehensive review.  This report is an excellent start.  We will continue to work with GMATS to achieve our goal of running a world-class, 21st Century Ferry operation."

The report recommends:

Implementation of a Safety Management System (SMS), which has become a maritime industry standard.  GMATS recommends developing and implementing a Safety Management System (SMS) is the key to improving the Staten Island Ferry operation.  A cornerstone of an SMS is the clear establishment and delineation of levels of authority and lines of communication.  In addition, through SMS, the Staten Island Ferry management will develop written procedures to cover all aspects of the operation, including the boats themselves, terminals, maintenance operations, management and administration – thus standardizing each and every component.  Through enhanced technical and professional training, quality assurance and internal and external audits, these written procedures will become incorporated into the day-to-day fabric of ferry operations. 

Technical training and professional development.  As an integral component of the Safety Management System, GMATS recommends that a comprehensive technical and professional development program be designed specifically for the Staten Island Ferryboat crews and shore-based personnel.  Some of the training will be for purposes of continuing to meet Coast Guard mandates.  Other training will be for specific job duties, vessel operations, security, equipment procedures, safety, environmental compliance and other aspects of the Safety Management System.  The SMS will establish the type and content of training on a continuous and ongoing basis.

New Staten Island Ferry management structure.  GMATS recommends a new management structure and augmented staffing in specific aspects of the operation.  The key to the new structure is the hiring of a Chief Operations Officer for the Staten Island Ferry.  GMATS believes that the COO will play a critical leadership role in improving Staten Island Ferry operations, and will be instrumental in developing new safety management procedures and in overseeing a navigation bridge team. In order to support the COO, GMATS is recommending a new management team consisting of a senior port engineer, a senior port captain and a safety manager.  Based on its assessment, GMATS recommends hiring 95 additional staff  (24 are needed just so the Ferry can maintain current operations without relying on significant use of overtime).  The remaining staff is needed to implement the Safety Management System, to allow relief for training and drills, and to prevent fatigue.

Bridge team management.  GMATS recommends the establishment of a Bridge Team Management program, designed specifically for the Staten Island Ferry operation.  The Bridge Team Management system will involve a rotating pilot house complement of three licensed officers, with two officers to be in the pilot house at all times.  The addition of the third officer will ensure necessary supervision, including in emergencies.

Better equipment and improved technology – GMATS recommends that the Ferry operation upgrade and improve its equipment and take advantage of newer technology, including, updating existing RADAR equipment and installation of Automated RADAR Plotting Aids (ARPA), Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS), Automatic Identification System (AIS), and digital, multi-directional vessel speed indicators.

Other safety enhancements
– GMATS made a number of recommendations for safety enhancements, emergency operations, and lifesaving capabilities on the boats, including implementing an alternative schedule to be followed in inclement weather.

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