Monday, November 4, 2013

Baron Raoul de Beaudean

By Julie Rahm

My column last week has generated some discussion about the Andrea Doria. So, as requested by many in our nautical community, here is the first half of the rest of the story.

The Italian ship Andrea Doria was a luxury liner. On 25 July 1956, while approaching the coast of Massachusetts, the eastbound freighter Stockholm collided with the Andrea Doria. Struck in the side, the top-heavy Andrea Doria immediately started to list to starboard, which left half of its lifeboats unusable. The shortage of lifeboats might have resulted in significant loss of life, but the efficiency of the ship's technical design allowed it to stay afloat for over 11 hours after the ramming. The professionalism of the crew, improvements in communications and the rapid response of other ships averted a Titanic-like disaster. 1,660 passengers and crew were rescued and survived. The evacuated luxury liner capsized and sank the following morning. This accident remains the worst maritime disaster in United States waters. So, here’s the short list of what went wrong.

The Andrea Doria crew had not followed proper radar procedures by using the plotting equipment available to calculate the position and speed of the Stockholm. The Andrea Doria crew failed to realize Stockholm's size, speed, and course.

The Andrea Doria crew did not follow the rules and turn right (to starboard) in case of a possible head-on crossing at sea. As Stockholm turned right, Andrea Doria turned left (to port), closing the circle instead of opening it. Beyond a certain point, it became impossible to avoid a collision. The Andrea Doria was speeding in heavy fog, an admittedly common practice on passenger liners.

The Stockholm and Andrea Doria were experiencing different weather conditions immediately prior to the collision. Although the Andrea Doria had been engulfed in the fog for several hours, Stockholm had only recently entered the bank and her crew was still acclimating to atmospheric conditions. The officer in charge of Stockholm incorrectly assumed that his inability to see the other vessel was due to conditions other than fog, such as the other ship being a very small fishing vessel or a blacked-out warship on maneuvers. He testified that he had no idea it was another passenger liner speeding through fog.

The Andrea Doria's fuel tanks were half empty and not pumped with seawater ballast in order to stabilize the ship, in accordance with the Italian Line's procedures. This contributed to the pronounced list following the collision. There was also perhaps a "missing" watertight door between bulkheads near the engine room, which was thought to have contributed to Andrea Doria's flooding.

The Stockholm's navigating officer misread his radar thinking he was on a 15-mile setting when in reality the radar was set for five miles. He thought he was farther from the Andrea Doria than was so. He also failed to consult his captain as was required by regulation… Unfortunately, I have reached 500 words. Read about the actions of Baron Raoul de Beaudean next week!

1 comment:

DomSavio said...

The Stockholm and Doria were equally to blame. Stockholm was going the wrong way in a one-lane shipping lane, and the Doria ought to have reduced speed. Its port-turn maneuver was correct, since it perceived the Stockholm all along to be to its starboard, and regulations require that once two ships are in that approach, they ought not to cross their paths. Had he turned the other way, the Stockholm would have been cut in two. The captain never made any significant announcements to the passengers about the useless portside lifeboats, the approach of rescue vessels, or order how to properly abandon ship. And many non-seamen crew members of the Doria were utter cowards. I sailed on this ship the year before it foundered, and am half-Italian, but I cannot escape facts.

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