In the SS El Faro Aftermath, Tote Maritime Legal Team Still Fighting Minor Civil Sanctions Proposed by the Coast Guard

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Nearly two and a half years after the El Faro Coast Guard casualty report and four and a half year since the tragedy, Tote Maritime continues to diligently oppose a handful of minor civil sanctions recommended by the Coast Guard.

“Maybe this is $80,000 in fines if they just settled it,” said one expert close to the matter. “But I guess they just don’t want any official record black marks.”

There have been plenty of other black marks. The Marine Board of Investigation report found that Tote contributed to the loss of the SS El Faro and her crew of 33 in Hurricane Joaquin through a poor safety culture, among other faults.

In the aftermath, the Coast Guard and its inspectors have cracked down hard on safety inspections and driven many of the oldest and weakest rust buckets from the fleet — including Tote’s SS El Yunque, sister ship of El Faro

 In the world of maritime law, the civil penalties are relatively small — more “traffic ticket” items than felonies. None trace back as a direct cause of the tragedy. They deal with these alleged infractions:

  • Tote violated rest hours for deck officers in a systematic manner, specifically for Second Mate Danielle Randolph, the Marine Board found.
  • Moreover, Tote did not adequately give safety training to the “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.
  • Tote also is alleged to have not reported to the Coast Guard repairs to the ship’s main boiler

“It’s possible they have concerns that by admitting error and responsibility here, they get nicked in other civil actions,” one observer said. “What I’m certain about is their legal fees now exceed the top fine they’d pay here.

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