Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Canadian Sub Fire Punishment

It looks like the Canadian Navy may differ from the U.S. Navy in another important regard -- the need for punishment of COs whose boats run into trouble. This report from the Globe and Mail (via The Sub Report) says that the head of Canada's Navy has recommended to the Chief of Defence Staff that there be no punishment for the CO of HMCS Chicoutimi. Excerpts:

"The navy's decision not to charge Cdr. Pelletier, Chicoutimi's captain, could set the stage for a battle inside the Canadian military high command. "The admiral is very protective of his people," said one official. But Gen. Hillier is the "final approving authority" and he can accept or reject the admiral's recommendations.
"Gen. Hiller must also brief Defence Minister Bill Graham on the way forward from Canada's worst military accident in decades.
"If Gen. Hillier were to overrule Adm. MacLean, the navy's commander could opt to walk the plank rather than seek to punish Cdr. Pelletier, according to officials familiar with the admiral's fierce loyalty to his service and his subordinates. In the admiral's view, Cdr. Pelletier and the Chicoutimi were the victims of a catastrophic, but unforeseeable set of circumstances.
"Officially, the navy was saying nothing yesterday, except to confirm that the report and the admiral's recommendations had been sent to Gen. Hillier."

This is quite interesting to me. How is the Canadian Navy supposed to prevent future recurrences of the problem if they don't punish those involved (Bubblehead asks sarcastically). In the U.S. Navy, we knew that if we didn't punish those involved in accidents, then people wouldn't have any incentive to keep them from happening again (Bubblehead continues in a sarcastic way). It's like those awards you give people for a certain number of accident-free years; Scott Adams of Dilbert once had one of his characters say it best -- "Without awards, there would be no incentive to avoid injury".
Hopefully, this wasn't the mindset of those who decided that the Navigation team of the San Francisco needed punishment. Obviously (at least to me) the incentive to avoid a horrible accident that could possibly result in the loss of the ship would be enough to get Navigation teams around the fleet to institute reforms based on lessons learned from the grounding. I hope that the decision to award punishment to those involved was due to an evaluation that their conduct deserved it, rather than a desire to "make an example" out of them; the pictures of the San Fran after the collision should do that by themselves.

Going deep...


Blogger Vigilis said...

What will happen here? (a) Adm. MacLean has already walked the plank, and his career is finished; (b) Pelletier is finished; (c) Brittain will pay some damages.

4/13/2005 12:00 PM

Blogger ninme said...

No, you're missing the point. If they punish one of the officers, they're admitting a Canadian was at fault, ergo Canada. This way they can blame the British, ergo Britain. Canada never does anything wrong, you see.

4/13/2005 3:33 PM

Blogger drunknsubmrnr said...

None of the above.

MacLean is a submariner, and familiar with running openedup, and the probable consequences of doing so. He's not going to be all that likely to punish Luc Pelletier for doing the same thing. He's also not likely to suffer career issues over this.

The whole punishment issue revolves around the question of "Did Cdr. Pelletier know, or should he have known, that running opened up would result in an electrical fire?". I can't see any way that he could have known this. The Chicoutimi was in the best shape of all of four boats, or at least it appeared to have been at the time. Submarines aren't supposed to burst into flame when they get a few inches of water on the deck. That is just not supposed to happen. If they do, they were designed and/or built and/or maintained wrong.

It's not a tradition in the CF to hold the CO responsible on the reason that they were in charge when something bad happened. Cdr Pelletier's career will probably be OK after this.

Whether the UK pays damages will be up to whatever Canada can negotiate with them. Technically, the boats still belong to the UK, and the UK is responsible for keeping them running.

4/14/2005 10:01 AM

Blogger Jack said...

A lot of us were convinced Pelltier was being fitted for the rope when Maclean rejected the inquiry findings and ordered a re-investigation of the decision to run opened up.
The government has made it clear they wanted Pelltier hung so that questions about why the boats were left to rot for 5 years and why 52 million got cut from the reactivation budget would get buried.
Notice the way the leaker spun the story to imply Maclean is covering up for mistakes made by Pelltier?

4/14/2005 3:30 PM

Blogger drunknsubmrnr said...

I thought he was going to be hung as well, at the time. However, that wouldn't work out well for anyone except the UK.

I've been really pleased with MND's treatment of this. He's consistently held off making comments until the report is out. It's a refreshing change from the usual round of idiots before McCallum.

4/14/2005 6:09 PM

Blogger ninme said...

I'm inclined to agree with the British Ministry of Defense guy who said, when this thing first got started, "Buyer beware."

4/14/2005 11:32 PM

Blogger drunknsubmrnr said...

They're actually leased, with refit and maintenance clauses. The boys have told me that they're literally unable to replace a lightbulb without permission from the UK.

The UK's responsible for the state of the boats. I don't know why they would take on that much of a responsibility, but they did.

4/15/2005 6:40 PM

Blogger ninme said...

Reeeeally. Well, I'll say. I wonder what that guy meant, then. Because his attitude seemed to be very "Tough luck, guys. Not our problem."

4/17/2005 10:24 PM

Blogger drunknsubmrnr said...

It was the UK's MND, Geoff Hoon, that said "Buyer beware". From other comments at the time, it was exactly what he meant. However, he also signed a contract acknowledging that the UK was responsible for the configuration and maintenance of the boats.

I'd say there's something else at work here. That's the UK's only submarine yard now, and if the inquiries come out with a report condemning the yards work, their contracts for five more Astute class are going to be in jeopardy. Without those boats, the RN will pretty much lose it's submarine capability, and the contracts are overdue now.

4/18/2005 9:28 AM


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