August 2012

Our first blog on "Women and Children First" elicited a fair amount of comment on various discussion sites. 

 

A major part of the discussion centered on the Birkenhead disaster. The Birkenhead disaster is considered to be the first application, or even the invention, of the "Women and Children First" concept.

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The title of this story has a purpose. On an ironic level, web search engines may regard it as a rare combination of terms (Wall Street and Efficiency). But, actually, it is a story about the maritime industry's efforts to fight for real efficiencies.

 

Seastreak is the ferry service between our part of New Jersey and New York City. This ferry service took its first feeble steps in the early eighties and today is an integral part of the quality of life of Monmouth County. M&O has shared many of the adventures and stumbling blocks with the progression of Owners that eventually resulted in the present service (which, by the way, is a true commercial venture and does not rely on subsidies). Once it became apparent that the service was viable in the late 1990's, Seastreak purchased four new catamaran ferries from Gladding Hearn.  

 

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Arriving for a recent vessel survey in Philadelphia, PA with my colleague Wayne Thomas, we found ourselves pulling up to a pier alongside the laid-up SS United States. After completing the survey, we had the chance to walk the pier and admire this imposing vessel, capturing this image.

 

 

For a vessel with such rich heritage, still retaining the Blue Riband trophy for the fastest passenger vessel across the Atlantic (in both directions), it seems a little unbefitting to see her in her current state following retirement from service in 1969 and subsequent lay-up at Pier 82, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1996.

 

Since the late 1970's we have worked with a number of investment groups on attempts to return the vessel to service. Unfortunately, read more »

Mikael Elinder and Oscar Erixson of Uppsala University recently performed an interesting analysis of survival rates in a large number of major ship disasters ranging over a period of over 150 years. They were interested in determining whether the old adage "Woman and Children First" actually occurred in such disasters.

 

While many of their conclusions are statistically very dubious, their data indicates that women and children survival rates actually are substantially lower than men and crew in major shipping disasters.

 

The most significant exception is the Titanic where a much higher percentage of women and children did survive. This study was a statistical analysis, and while the numbers do support their findings, each disaster is unique and there may have been factors that would have resulted in lower women and children survival rates even if there was an intent to allow the women and children to enter the life boat first. Some of these disasters may have been so confusing that the order was never heard, others may have developed too quickly for any type of abandonment order to have taken place. And when panic develops, "Woman and Children First" (or any other type of group objective) is simply abandoned in the quest for individual survival.

 

However, quite possibly, Messrs. Elinder and Erixson's analysis just sheds light read more »