The captain of El Faro was uncertain about his future with Tote Services and the company in turn had reservations about putting him at the helm of some new vessels in its fleet, the hearing into the El Faro sinking was told on Thursday.
Captain Michael Davidson and 32 other crew members went down with the cargo ship when it was caught in Hurricane Joaquin off the Bahamas on October 1, 2015.
The US Coast Guard (USCG) Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) into the disaster was in its penultimate scheduled day in Jacksonville, Florida.
Davidson expressed concerns about his future with Tote in an e-mail one week before the sinking. He doubted he would be offered a captaincy on a new line of vessels Tote was introducing.
An MBI investigator mentioned the e-mail to former Tote crewing manager Melissa Clark at Thursday’s hearing. Clark had written e-mails expressing a lack of confidence in Davidson’s leadership and she even discouraged Tote’s CEO from hiring Davidson for a post on a new ship.
A lawyer for Davidson’s widow reminded Clark that Davidson had quit his previous employment with Crowley Maritime because of a safety issue. Clark agreed that that was “honorable” behavior by Davidson.
The MBI is scheduled to hear one more day of testimony before wrapping up its fact-finding phase which has comprised three two-week hearings. This will be followed by a period of analysis before it issues its findings to the USCG Commandant.