SS Edmund Fitzgerald - Subsequent Changes To Great Lakes Shipping Practice

Subsequent Changes To Great Lakes Shipping Practice

The USCG investigation of the Fitzgerald sinking resulted in 15 recommendations regarding load lines, weathertight integrity, search and rescue capability, lifesaving equipment, crew training, loading manuals, and providing information to masters of Great Lakes vessels. NTSB's investigation resulted in 19 recommendations for the USCG, four recommendations for the American Bureau of Shipping, and two recommendations for NOAA. Of the official recommendations, the following actions and USCG regulations were put in place:

1. In 1977, the USCG made it a requirement that all vessels of 1,600 gross register tons and over use depth finders.
2. Since 1980, survival suits have been required aboard ship in each crew member's quarters and at their customary work station with strobe lights affixed to life jackets and survival suits.
3. A LORAN-C positioning system for navigation on the Great Lakes was implemented in 1980 and later replaced with Global Positioning System (GPS) in the 1990s.
4. Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB) are installed on all Great Lakes vessels for immediate and accurate location in event of a disaster.
5. Navigational charts for northeastern Lake Superior were improved for accuracy and greater detail.
6. NOAA revised its method for predicting wave heights.
7. The USCG rescinded the 1973 Load Line Regulation amendment that permitted reduced freeboard loadings.
8. The USCG began the annual pre-November inspection program recommended by the NTSB. "Coast Guard inspectors now board all U.S. ships during the fall to inspect hatch and vent closures and lifesaving equipment."

Karl Bohnak, an Upper Peninsula meteorologist, covered the sinking and storm in a book on local weather history. In this book, Joe Warren, a deckhand on the Anderson during the November 10, 1975, storm, said that the storm changed the way things were done. He stated, "After that, trust me, when a gale came up we dropped the hook . We dropped the hook because they found out the big ones could sink." However, Mark Thompson wrote, "Since the loss of the Fitz, some captains may be more prone to go to anchor, rather than venturing out in a severe storm, but there are still too many who like to portray themselves as 'heavy weather sailors'."

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