LeatherPenguin @ BlogSpot


Friday, February 13, 2004

Well, the experts at the Global Maritime and Transportation School (GMATS) have issued their report on what the city needs to do to put the city's ferry fleet back on course, and Bloomberg and Co. have issued their press release, held their press conference, and the city's newspapers have dutifully filed their copy on the matter. After slogging through it all, it's my turn.

Before I get started, a tip of the hat to the Staten Island Advance. Their sub-headline, "City report rips ferry system...," was exactly WRONG. The report stated that, considering the underfunding, understaffing and insulated management system existant, the ferry system operates effectively.

For the love of Les Trautmann! It was the fourth paragraph of the report's Executive Summary! And which idiot in your midst decided that your article merited being labeled "EXCLUSIVE" when your boy Seth was sitting in the Blue Room with a slew of other reporters?

Way to go, Fingerboard Road! My faith in your utter fecklessness remains intact.

The report itself did not directly address the circumstances that led to the Oct. 15 crash. Instead, GMATS sent two teams to examine the state of the ferry system firsthand, with team members observing operations both on the boats and at the docks, including interviews with administrators and ferry crews.

The conclusion? Throw money at the ferries and they'll work better.

The report recommends hiring a total of 95 new employees, with an initial 24 brought on board "as soon as practical." The 71 additional hires should be phased in within the next two-three years. These new people, and the existing employees will, among other things, be required to work a forty hour week instead of the thirty hours they currently are required to put in. The ferries themselves are to be upgraded, incorporating better RADAR and crash prevention technologies, in addition to more lifeboats, etc., yadda yadda yadda. Go read the thing.

"Using the insights of the best maritime minds in this country, the old Staten Island Ferry culture will come to an end," said Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall at the press conference. "This is an old system that relied in large part on tradition and custom and will now be replaced with a first-class management operation that incorporates standardized written practices. Its deficiencies are now all too clear and its time has come and gone."

As far as the old system and people in charge of that system, which managed to kill 11 and mangle scores more of its passengers, that buck was passed over to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), who haven't had anything public to say on the matter since Oct. 23, and the Eastern District Attorney's office, which seems to be, web-wise, a black hole.

The ferry's current director of operations, Patrick Ryan, and several other senior managers have become a focus of the criminal investigation into the accident. Investigators are looking into whether Mr. Ryan and his cohorts passed along operating procedures to employees under them. Indeed, the existence of any actual operating procedures is still a matter of conjecture. The city believes they exist, and intend to use them to prove that the designated scapegoat, disgraced and dismissed Capt. Michael J. Gansas, screwed up and deserves to get hammered. They just haven't been able to actually find a copy of the sucker. Unless the Feds decide to fry the big boys, Weinshall said they would not be fired, but they could apply for new jobs in the revamped ferry operation.


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