Monday, June 23, 2008

ERM-BCP-COOP: How did it happen?

All I've seen are news articles, but the headlines are tragically pretty much the same:

    Ferry sinks in typhoon; hundreds feared dead

The "hundreds" range from 700 to 800.

The ferry, The Princess of Stars, is - or was - a 23,824 gross ton vessel, not a small boat by any means.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo upbraided maritime officials in a conference call broadcast live on local radio. "Why did you allow it to sail and why was there no ample warning?" she demanded. "I want answers."

Typhoons are hurricanes in the Pacific. (The wind direction - clockwise or counter-clockwise is of no consequence when the force is 75 mpg and greater.)

I've experienced hurricanes in the States, so I know something about them.

Unlike other risks, hurricanes don't suddenly "pop up" out of no where; there always is ample warning - assuming, of course, that those with hurricane (and tsunami) tracking technology share the information and that those (governments) receiving the information act upon it.

Big assumptions.

I don't know how far the Princess of Stars was sailing or how far out it was when it sunk.

Unless the trip took more than several days - and again, I was not there, but I can't imagine a "ferry" being in transit more than a few hours - there is no excuse for the boat setting sail with passengers, or even more than a skeleton crew.

Most Navy and Coast Guard deep water sailors will tell us that the safest place for a ship during a storm is out to sea. Assuming - there's that word again - that the captain and crew know how to handle the vessel in a storm.

When a storm is bearing down on Florida, Navy ships put to sea. Many cruise ships also head away from port - but not with passengers.

President Arroyo wants to know why the ship was allowed to sail.

As an Enterprise Risk Management practitioner, I also would like to know.

What was the reasoning? The typhoon will track elsewhere? Anyone who has watched hurricanes/typhoons knows that even the best predictions often are fooled by the storm's whimsy.

One of the greatest risks we face, day in and day out, is our own chutzpah; we know what is going to happen or we know what "can't" happen.

Chutzpah, foolishness, stupidity, or "all of the above."

Human error.

Human error which could have, should have, been avoided.

Who made the decision to sail?

Why was the decision made to sail? Greed, perhaps?

Why would someone, knowing a storm approached, willingly get on a vessel which might get caught in the storm? (Where could they go if they elected to stay on land?)

A co-worker from India suggested that the people are so poor that they had no choice but to board the vessel and take a chance to earn a daily pittance.

As with most things ERM, one question leads to another and each needs to be answered so that we don't again see headlines like the one at "Over 800 missing in Philippine ferry disaster"

John Glenn, MBCI, SRP
Enterprise Risk Management/Business Continuity
Planner @

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