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.
Other News from the Frump Report
Modern Day “Impressment” in the Bouchard Incident
Bouchard Barges and the Concept of Modern Press Ganges
Is the situation with those Bouchard tugs and barges a modern version of seaman impressment? Some think so as the crew — some of them — have been forced to stay on the tug since Thanksgiving. Actually we’re not a “press gang” says the Coast Guard. But for now, you can’t leave the ship. On the other hand? The Bouchard execs may face prison time if they don’t move the barge-tug combo soon.
Should the Jones Act Allow Foreign-Built Ships
If American shipyards can’t build affordable ships, and very old ships stay in service, should ship lines be allowed to buy abroad? While still running US crews and officers. It works fine for airlines. Perhaps it’s time to de-couple ship crews and shipyards — particularly when the ship crews must ship out on old rustbuckets.
Did the Loss of the SS El Faro Spark the Largest Safety Reforms Since the Titanic?
The SS Marine Electric certainly made her mark. Rescue Swimmers. Survival suits. But the SS El Faro reforms continue — and may among other accomplishments, finally resolve the issues of American Bureau of Shipping quality and consistency.
The SS Poet and the SS Penny, Two Rust Buckets of Old
Nearly 40 years ago, the SS Poet sailed out of Philadelphia with a cargo of corn bound for Egypt — and then just disappeared. And I began a 40-year quest to find out what made maritime safety tick. Here’s one stop along the way — when I met the SS Penny, twin of the lost Poet, down in Tampa. There may be rustier ships, but few that float.