El Faro report deserves to be compulsory for everyone involved in the safe management of ships

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche
ShipInsight

02 October 2017


Almost every possible mistake and act of negligence that could be made, was, according to the USCG report into the 2015 sinking of the TOTE container ship El Faro in Hurricane Joaquin that killed 33 people on board. Virtually no one from the master, officers, crew and company escapes criticism in the report which recommends action against the company and says that the master would have faced prosecution if he had survived. Most of the blame for the loss of the vessel is laid on the master who, the report says, made an ill-considered decision to sail through rather than around the hurricane, and “failed to carry out his responsibilities and duties as captain of the vessel” during the last eight hours before it sank. In some parts the report is also critical of the USCG itself especially with regard to oversight of compliance with safety regulations. The report makes almost 40 recommendations some of which could result in changes to IMO and USCG regulations. However, there are elements in the report that do not appear in the recommendations but which will be recognisable to almost all seafarers and those responsible for safety management systems and which highlight some of the worst practices in ship operation. Among these is the attitude to testing of survival suits (pages 24 and 52), lifeboat drills, passage planning, use of weather information and routeing services, lube oil levels and so much more. In the interests of ship safety, the report deserves to be made compulsory reading for everyone involved in the safe management of ships from company directors through DPAs and to every seafarer. A copy of the report can be downloaded here.