An inspector found parts of El Faro’s boiler system called burner throats were in need of maintenance but did not consider them a safety issue, the hearing into the cargo vessel’s sinking heard on Thursday, its ninth day of ten.
Luke Laasko of Walashek Industrial and Marine told the US Coast Guard’s (USCG) Marine Board of Investigation in Jacksonville, Florida, that there was work needed to be done but that he felt the ship was not a safety risk or he would have notified the vessel’s engineers.
Laasko’s inspection was in September 2015 and the ship’s owners Tote Maritime had scheduled a November maintenance in response.
But the 790-foot El Faro (14,971 dwt, built 1975) went down off the Bahamas on October 1 with the loss of all 33 crew members when it was caught in Hurricane Joaquin.
The hearing, the first of two, was looking at reasons why the ship – en route from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico, with a cargo of cars – lost propulsive power, leaving it at the mercy of the hurricane.
Friday will be the final day of this first round of hearings. The second round of hearings will be later this year at an as yet unconfirmed location. After those, the USCG will issue its report.