USCG: El Faro’s Operator Faces Civil Penalty Investigation

The operator of the ill-fated cargo ship El Faro could face a civil penalty investigation, according to the final report on the sinking released by the United States Coast Guard.

Namely, the USCG recommended that Sector Jacksonville initiate civil penalty action against TOTE Services Inc (TSI) for failure to comply with the work-rest requirements for El Faro crew members on multiple dates prior to the accident voyage, and failure to comply with emergency procedures for special personnel.

Specifically, Polish ship rider Marek Pupp testified that he continued to conduct work on El Faro during the emergency muster and abandon ship drills.

Additional failures included failure to notify the Coast Guard or ABS of repairs to primary lifesaving appliances that were conducted on September 28, 2015, just prior to El Faro’s departure from Jacksonville on the accident voyage.

Furthermore, the company failed to notify the Coast Guard or ABS of repairs to El Faro’s main propulsion boiler superheating piping on August 24, 2015.

“The investigation has determined that there is evidence that TSI may have committed multiple violations of law or regulation. As such, the alleged violations identified in this recommendation will be referred to the Officer in Charge, Marine Inspections, Jacksonville, for investigation and enforcement ction, as appropriate,” Paul F. Zukunft, Admiral, USCG, said.

Earlier in December, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the El Faro tragedy, dubbed the deadliest shipping disaster involving a US-flagged vessel in more than 30 years, was caused by the captain’s failure to avoid sailing into a hurricane.

“We may never understand why the captain failed to heed his crew’s concerns about sailing into the path of a hurricane, or why he refused to chart a safer course away from such dangerous weather,” Robert L. Sumwalt, NTSB Chairman, said, “but we know all too well the devastating consequences of those decisions.”

The NTSB also said that the poor oversight and inadequate safety management system of the ship’s operator, TOTE, contributed to the sinking.

The 790-foot vessel sank on October 1, 2015 in the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Joaquin, taking the lives of all 33 seafarers who were aboard.