Jacksonville, Florida — August 20, 2018 — US Coast Guard officials today confirmed they are recommending several civil actions against TOTE Maritime, operator of the lost ship SS El Faro, for the company’s failure to provide legally required rest periods for officers, and its failure to report repairs made to the ship’s boilers, among other alleged infractions.
The El Faro sank on October 1, 2015 in Hurricane Joaquin with the loss of 33 mariners. A Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation concluded that the master of the ship seriously erred in steering too close to the storm but that actions and inactions by TOTE, the Coast Guard itself and ABS (a ship inspection service) contributed to the tragedy.
A TOTE spokesman declined to comment on the action. In response to a question, a Coast Guard spokesperson today confirmed the conclusions of the Jacksonville investigation and said the recommendations are pending action in Washington headquarters of the Coast Guard.
“Jacksonville determined there could be several violations (of the civil code) and we expect the details will be made pubic in the very near future,” said the spokesperson. “They are pending reviews by the legal team before being made formal.”
The major items listed in the formal Marine Board of Investigation were these:
- TOTE violated rest hours for deck officers in a systemic manner, specifically for Second Mate Danielle Randolph, the Marine Board found.
- Moreover, TOTE did not adequately give safety training to a “riding crew” of Polish nationals on board to convert the ship for Alaska use.
- The company also failed to report to the Coast Guard repairs to lifesaving equipment as required by law and did not report to the Coast Guard repairs to the ship’s main boiler.
While those are the items most likely to be the focus of the Jacksonville recommendations, the Marine Board also faulted Tote on a number of other points, including these:
- TOTE did not ensure the safety of marine operations and failed to provide shore side nautical operations supports to its vessels.
- TOTE did not identify heavy weather as a risk in the Safety Management System (SMS) and the Coast Guard had not exercised its flag state authority to require identification of specific risks
- TOTE did not provide the tools and protocols for accurate weather observations. The Master and navigation crew did not adequately or accurately assess and report observed weather conditions.
- TOTE did not provide adequate support and oversight to the crew of EL FARO during the accident voyage.