The second week of formal public hearings began Monday into the capsizing of the liftboat Seacor Power.
Over the first week, testimonies have been heard from two survivors of the capsizing, witnesses to the capsizing, and Coast Guard personnel who were on duty the day of the incident.
The daily hearings begin at 8:00 am at the Courtyard Marriot Hotel in Houma and will continue until August 13.
On Thursday, testimony will be heard from John Spath Talos Senior VP for Production Operations, Michael Boudreaux Talos Logistics Manager, and Joe Rousseau ABS Director of Offshore Technology & Tom Gruber ABS Chief Engineer of Statutes.
During these hearings the Coast Guard will consider evidence related to the capsizing of the Seacor Power and the loss of 13 of its 19 crewmembers. Survivors of the incident and representatives of the agencies involved are scheduled to speak over the course of the sessions. See the schedule.
Sessions can be watched online at this link: https://livestream.com/uscginvestigations.
John Spath with Talos Engergy, Senior Vice President of Production in Houston Texas was the first to testify on Thursday August 12.
Spath has worked in the position since 2018, but has worked for the company for 8 years. Talos is an offshore operator, they produce oil and gas.
Spath, in his capacity with Talos, manages assets and production engineering for the company, coordinating projects and well work and overseeing operations offshore and on land. He has 450 employees that report to him.
Spath began with providing insight on his daily operations which consists of meetings with production operations, talking to supervisors on any issues seen offshore, and make calls to rigs off shore to discuss any problems. He says that meetings on budgets or offshore incidents fill out his day. His work covers all of Talos assets.
Spath has no interaction with the vessels in his day to day activities.
When it comes to contracting a vessel, Talos determines the scope of the project and then they go out to find a vessel to charter for the project. They do audit vessels where they check safety records which will alert them if there are some performance issues or incidents. 30 to 40 deep dives are done each year by the Manager of Vendor Safety out of Lafayette. They look at the previous year's performance of the contractor to see if they will audit the contractor.
He says he does not know if Seacor has been audited in the past years in terms of safety. When questioned about the safety, Spath said that he has been satisfied with the work that Seacor has provided in it's previous work with the company.
Spath says that they provide the job and work for the vessel and crew but the transport and movement of that vessel is soley up to the contractor and captain of the crew. "We provide the water depth, deck height, surveys of sea floor, we provide them with pipeline location to the lift boat company and they then determine how best to approach a platform."
In regards to the Seacor Power, Talos did not have any direct personnel on that vessel as they were heading out to location separately. Seacor was on another project and came in to dock to change for work.
The investigators asked Spath about weather reports that Talso receives. Spath told the panel that the company does receive reports but does not provide those reports to vessels that are in service by them. T
Their service provides a general look at weather reports at their fixed platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. He says those site specific reports come in at 6:00 am, 12:00pm and one in the evening at 17:30 hours. Tropical storms and hurricane updates come in every 4 hours.
They do not share with vessels as they have their own weather reports, as was reported early on in the hearings last week.
The weather reports go to the fixed locations in the Gulf and the company men aboard each vessel that is in service. There is a manager who adds company-men, with generic emails, to the distribution list to receive weather alerts. Once on the list, Spath says that the emails are not removed so weather forecasts continue to be sent out.
The report is one email with several attachments regarding locations that may need the weather alert. Everyone gets the same email. The weather reports can be shared with Captains of vessels by companymen, Spath says. It is not proprietary, he said.
The vessel may request weather reports from Talos but services used by vessels and services used by Talos are different.
The weather service does not alert Talos of any unexpected weather conditions.Spath says that on that day, the reports, did not indicate any issues with weather.
Seacor began work for Talos in February 2021, Spath said. Seacor was selected for the project because of the lift height of the boat. Spath said that he was not aware if there were any issues or limitations to the lift boat beyond the lift height of the boat.
The project for Seacor Power at Main Pass was expected to only last 10 to 14 days.
When asked if weather comes up and causes a vessel to be concerned over it, Talos will incur the cost of leaving the vessel at the location. Their is no fine that a captain of a vessel might incur, Spath said. "It is their [The captain] authority to do that when it is not safe," he said.
Spath says that on April 13, he was the first person called about a mayday signal from the Seacor Power. Michael Boudreaux, Talos Logistics Manager, called Spath to tell him what he heard. Spath then called his boss to report the information. A conference call was initiated at least 15 minutes after receiving the report of the mayday. They worked to confirm if the initial report of the mayday was correct.
Boudreaux told Spath that would mobilize all vessels nearby to assist. He was able to confirm during the conference call that Seacor Power had flipped and sank.
Spath says that he then packed a bag and traveled to Lafayette to assist Seacor. Vessels contracted by Talos were told to standby to help as needed, other vessels remained on scene until Seacor took over response which limited Talos' involvement in the work. Talos offered a dive vessel and additional vessels that they had under charter in their fleet.
"When we were told they didn't need our dive barge, they requested to put dive equipment on another barge, we offered another vessel to help," Spath said. Spath said that the dive vessel, was probably not be able to make it to the scene, as it was 7 to 8 hours away from the capsizing site.
After the incident, Talos alerted contracted companies to the capsizing in order for them to alert families of those involved. Spath says he is unsure of when those calls would have been placed but believes that it was that evening.
When questioned Spath says that looking back on the incident, he would suggest that multiple reviews of forecasts happen before it is safe to move, in regards to Seacor's authority. "I don't know if they have that level of communication with captain and Seacor authority," Spath added.
Michael Boudreaux, Talos Logistics Manager out of Houston Texas spoke next. He oversees marine and and offshore bases which includes production operations and special projects and special needs projects.
He began his work in 2014. He has managed logistics during his time at Talos. Boudreaux previously worked in Lafayette and before that in Port Fourchon.
On a day to day, Boudreaux makes sure that all production turn boats are making their normal runs. He also manages vessels for projects, making sure they have supplies they need and are running on time. He also oversees that helicopters (RLC company) have no issues and are running on schedule, the same with trucking management.
Boudreaux makes determination on what kind of vessels are needed for specific projects. He will then go out to vendors to find the vessels Talos is looking for and make a determination on those vessels. The decision on what vessels will be chosen are a joint engagement.
He is not in charge of equipment and personnel but does request information from vessel owners before projects begin. He has very little contact with the vessel after that point. Dispatchers in Port Fourchon will assist with any issues vessels are having.
Boudreaux has at least 4 personnel every 4 hours at Port Fourchon. He would speak to operations for updates on vessels if any problems occur, he says. Those problems would be for repairs and maintenance.
Dispatchers handle calls for day to day operations. They operate out of Port Fourchon at an office for Talos. They communicate by phone, internet, VHF radios. There is someone on watch for 24hours a day by rotation.
A company-man, Boudreaux says, is on the ship but is not a Talos worker. They report to project engineers who then report to Talos. Engineers are in Houston, Texas.
He says that he has had no complaints about Seacor or Seacor Power.
The Seacor Power would be receiving equipment and the people to run the equipment on the vessel which included a crane. The Seacor Power would supply the crew and vessel to do the project.
If any issue arises in regards to the project, the Captain would notify company-man who would then notify project engineer and then Boudreaux would be advised of the issues.
When asked about severe weather and how it effects vessels, Boudreaux says it is common that lift boats will stop ad jack up and wait until weather passes. They do not incur and fines for doing so, he says.
Boudreaux says that Talos gets site specific weather alerts which are distributed to those sites. Spath spoke on the same reports.
Weather reports are reviewed before projects begin. Talos operations, company-men, clerks and other who have worked with Talos get the weather reports each day.
If weather is not cooperative, boats will not go out. The weather provider does not provide severe weather alert updates beyond the 4 times a day reports.
Boudreaux says that the Captain of the vessel has the authority to leave when they deem safe. He has seen in the past where boats do not leave port. He gets notified by emails if vessels are delayed. There is no incentive or pressure for companies to complete work early.
On the Afternoon of April 13, Boudreaux says that at 3:02 p.m.the lift boat Seacor Port left Bollinger at Port Fourchon
Vance Collins issued information to Boudreaux that lift boat had left the port. At around 4:36 pm an email was sent out on the status of the boat.
At 4:45 pm, there was word of Seacor Power capsizing.
Boudreaux says afterwards he called numerous officials with Talos to see if they had heard about what had happened to the Seacor Power. He called and got Spath on the home, and then called dispatch to find out the information.
A dispatch at 5:00 pm called that a crew was going out to the Seacor Power. It was then confirmed that the Seacor Power had capsized.
The Mr. LLoyd and the Big P went out to scene as they were the closest to the Seacor Power. The Mr. Lloyd was able to pick up the company-man with the Seacor Power. The vessel Big P had to return to port because of the sea conditions.
Boudreaux says the Mr. Lloyd arrived and other vessels were on scene, to his knowledge, the vessel tried to search as much area as possible.
After the capsizing, Seacor and Coast Guard took over investigations. Boudreaux offered chartered vessels to help assist though some vessels were turned away.
Boudreaux was in the Lafayette office and offered to got to Port Fourchon after a operations point was set up. He remained in Lafayette in case he was needed.
Boudreaux said looking back, up to date weather reports on vessels would be of better use to prevent these types of incidents from happening again.
Joe Rousseau ABS Director of Offshore Technology & Tom Gruber ABS Chief Engineer of Statutes were the last to speak at the hearings on Thursday.
They answered questions based on the classification of vessels based on rules ABS publishes. These rules help designers and builders of vessels
They went over the Seacor Power classification. The vessel was built under ABS rules and that it was built under survey by an ABS surveyor.
The restricted service on the vessel indicated that the Seacor Power could only operate in certain depths.
Questions during this portion of the hearing centered around lift boat operation in high winds and rough seas. A panel member questioned both Gruber and Rosseau on the maximum sustained winds that a vessel such as the Seacor Power could withstand and remain stable. He questioned whether ABS provides sufficient information to vessel builders and operators regarding extreme weather conditions.
Rousseau and Gruber both agreed that it is something ABS would look into if it was found that changes were recommended for lift boats. There is information, they say, on what boats like the Seacor Power can withstand and remain stable. That information they say, is what they follow when designing, building, surveying and operating vessels.
------RECAP FROM WEEK 2 :Day 6, 7 and 8
At the beginning of Monday's hearing, Capt Tracy Phillips read fragments of testimony from survivors of the Seacor Power.
Those testimonies gave a clearer picture of how the survivors managed to escape the capsized vessel and documented the actions of survivors. Many gave reports of those had escaped the vessel but are still unaccounted for. Statements read were from survivors Brandon Aucoin, James Gracien, Zachary Louviere, and Charles Scallan.
The first to testify on Tuesday was Phillip Grigsby with the National Weather Service in Slidell.
Grigsby was working the day shift and explained that on the day of the incident a bow echo moved across Southeast Louisiana and into the coastal waters. That bow echo was strengthened by a wake low, an uncommon occurrence, he said. Grigsby testified that the storm's high winds lasted longer than normally seen with those types of systems.
Also testifying was Commander Vince Taylor. Taylor testified of connectivity issues that the Chesapeake, Virginia Coast Guard Communications station was have with the New Orleans site on April 13. The connectivity issue was due to problems with the internet which he said are rare.
The final testimony came from Seacor Superintendent Tommy Saunier. He testified about his role as superintendent and his duties of taking care of repairs and maintenance for Seacor liftboats.
Saunier explained in the past their was an issue with Seacor Power's legs that caused it to list, but that those issues had been fixed. While the legs weren't checked during the last routine drydocking, he said there was no need to inspect them because if they were damaged then the boat would have been listing during drydocking, which it was not.
Speaking of Captain Ledet, Saunier said they had been friends for a long time and that "if he knew of any problem he would not have left."
Read more from Day 6 of testimony, here.
Off-Boat Captain Scott Timmons testified on Tuesday morning. Timmons was on board the Seacor Power on the morning of the incident. He and his crew were changing out with the new crew that would be taking control of the vessel.
Timmons described operations on board the Seacor Power at the time of his voyage and said that there were no issues. Notably, Timmons explained that before coming into Port Fourchon at the end of their job a storm caused the ship to lose a life raft and sustain damage to a grating on the starboard leg tower.
Timmons noted that during that weather system he did not receive alerts from any of the weather devices on the bridge.
Also testifying on Tuesday was Off-boat Chief Engineer James Endres.
Endres described his work on the Seacor Power and the functioning of the vessel prior to his disembarkation.
Seacor Operations Manager Paul Fremin provided the final testimony on Tuesday. Fremin has been the Operations Manager for Seacor liftboats since May 2020. He currently oversees five active vessels, and his duties include appraising Vessel Masters and things like their seamanship, conduct, and skills.
Fremin said on the morning of April 13, he called Captain David Ledet for an update on that morning's crew change. Fremin testified that he spoke to Ledet again later that day, who said everything was going well and the liftboat should be getting underway in the next few hours.
Fremin would receive one last communication with Ledet via an email at 12:17 p.m. stating he was jacking down from Bollinger/Port Fourchon for the 20-22 hour transit to Main Pass 138, and again stated "all good."
Fremin's next contact was with dispatch at 4:16 p.m., who said he'd gotten a call from the Coast Guard at 4:07 p.m. regarding a signal from the Seacor Power's (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and wanting to verify the boat's beacon ID and the vessel's status.
Fremin said he then began making phone calls to try and find more information, including to Capt. Ledet, who "didn't answer." A short while later he heard from his boss, who said a nearby boat had reported seeing the Seacor Power capsize.
Read more from Tuesday's testimony, here.
Michael Cenac who serves as a Designated Person Ashore at Seacor Marine testified first on Wednesday.
Cenac described the type of audits that take place aboard lift boats for safety purposes and the last audit for the Seacor Power which occurred in March 2021, Cenac said. He described the reports on the day of the incident and detailed how information was passed from Seacor to the Coast Guard.
He also described the process of contacting the next of kin following the capsizing.
Also testifying was Seacor Marine Alt DPA and Auditor Barrett Charpentier testified. Charpentier described some of his auditing duties during testimony on Wednesday. He said that the most recent audit has not been finalized.
Seacor General Manager Joey Ruiz was the final person to testify on Wednesday detailing what happened on the day of the capsizing.
BELOW IS A RECAP OF WEEK 1
On Monday, survivor Dwayne Lewis shared his story. He said he was taught that if a boat went down in the Gulf, to break a window - but when it came down to it, it took the strength of two men. Lewis added he doesn't know how to swim, so when he entered the water, a new struggle began. He faced 10-12 foot waves amid a torrential downpour, lightning, and high winds.
Also speaking Monday was a captain near the Seacor during the storm, who said the weather that day was unlike anything he's ever experienced.
"It started drizzling, so we walked inside and that's when ... all hell broke loose," captain Ted Duthu said. The liftboat captain was on a nearby boat when the Seacor Power went down. He shared new video taken from his camera during the storm, which had waves higher than the projected 3-5 feet. He observed winds of 112 miles per hour.
When the rain died down, Duthu's crew found the Seacor Power on its side and called mayday.
To read more on Day 1 of testimony, click here.
On Tuesday, the Seacor Power's first mate, Bryan Mires, testified. Mires gave testimony about his experience during the capsizing of the liftboat and the weather conditions on the day of the incident. He detailed the operations of the liftboat and what checks were done by the crew before and during the boat's departure.
Mires said that he and Captain David Ledet discussed the weather on the day of the incident which, he recalled, was sunny with a few clouds.
Mires was the second survivor of the Seacor Power to speak during the hearings. He was one of six crewmembers rescued from the waters following the incident.
Also testifying on Tuesday was Coast Guard SAR Systems Specialist Edwin Thiedeman. He answered questions about the functioning of on-vessel devices that emit distress signals when activated.
To read more on Day 2 of testimony, click here.
On Wednesday, Coast Guard Command Duty Officers Lieutenant Brandon Critchfield and Lieutenant Seth Gross detailed their handling of the search and rescue response to the vessel on April 13.
Critchfield said that there was confusion caused in the District 8 office by incorrect information initially received from Seacor Marine that said the vessel was moored and not in distress. A beacon distress signal received on the afternoon of the incident did not provide details of the liftboat's location.
Boatswain's Mates Jessica Gill and Anthony Abbate also testified Wednesday, recalling their first-hand accounts as coxswains on the 45 foot response boats that arrived at the scene of the capsizing to rescue survivors.
Read more on Day 3 of testimony, here.
Thursday's hearing began with testimony from two members of the Bristow Helicopter flight crew, Jason Jennison and Jim Peters. The two testified about their response to the capsizing of the Seacor Power and the efforts taken to attempt rescues of the survivors on board.
The two said that the intense weather conditions that night and hesitation from the crew to abandon the sinking vessel made rescue attempts difficult.
"We asked them to get into the water," Peters said. "One of them came back on the radio and said, 'I can't swim.' You could hear the terror."
Jennison said at one point during the hearing that getting the crewmembers to jump into the ocean that night, "would have taken a leap of faith to do."
The odds of survival, he said, would have been better had they entered the water rather than staying behind.
"The outcome we wanted didn't happen," Peters said "In our parts, we failed because we didn't get the individuals off and back to base."
Coast Guard Capt. Tracy Phillips, chairwoman of the Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation, told Peters that she believes that the helicopter crew did the best they could.
Also testifying on Thursday were Lieutenant j.g. Aaron Rice with the United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Houma and Matthew Barrie a surveyor with the American Bureau of Shipping.
Read more from Day 4 of testimony, here.
DAY 5Leonard Guidry, the captain of the Glenn Harris, testified on Friday morning. The Glenn Harris, a non-commissioned Coast Guard cutter at the time of the incident, was one of the first boats to respond to the scene following the capsizing.
Guidry testified about his actions to rescue survivors of the Seacor Power along with the Coast Guard and Bristow Helicopter crew.
During his testitmony Guidry said his boat crew took one Seacor Power crewmember on board and was in communication with some of the men on board the capsized vessel. He said that as conditions worsened during the night, two men on board radioed about taking refuge inside a hatch in the ship.
"He was asking for help and how they were going to take shelter in that space inside the ship, where ever the hatch was," said Guidry.
Guidry said after that communication, there were no more calls received from the radio.
Also testifying on Friday were auditors from the American Bureau of Shipping.
Read more from Day 5 of testimony, here.
A blog operated by the Coast Guard will provide hearing updates at www.mariners.coastguard.blog
The National Transportation Safety Board is the leading agency in the Seacor Power investigation. They will also participate in the Coast Guard public hearing. The NTSB is expected to produce an independent report with its own findings.
Anyone wishing to provide information that may assist the investigation and the public hearing can submit that information via email to: email@example.com
The Seacor Power capsized in the Gulf of Mexico on April 13, 2021, approximately seven miles south of Port Fourchon. Nineteen crewmembers were on board at the time of the capsizing. Six crewmembers were initially rescued, and six were recovered unresponsive during the course of the response.
Following the incident, crews searched for a cumulative 175 hours, covering more than 9,200 square nautical miles, over the course of six days.
The search for the remaining seven crewmembers was suspended by the Coast Guard on April 19.
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