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El Faro sinking an ‘accident’, not a ‘colossal failure of management’

A senior executive of ship owners Tote on Thursday told the US Coast Guard hearing into the El Faro sinking that there was no rational reason to explain the tragic sinking of the cargo vessel with the loss of all 33 crew.

Executive vice president Peter Keller said the incident was “fundamentally an accident” and there was no way to attribute a “cause” for what led to the El Faro going down in Hurricane Joaquin off the Bahamas on October 1, 2015.

Keller also emphasized the high priority that the company puts on the safety of its crews and ships, saying that it would never compromise safety to improve journey times.

His defiant answers at the USCG Marine Board of Investigation in Jacksonville, Florida, came after a strong comment from Tom Roth-Roffy, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) lead investigator. Roth-Roffy said that the loss of the ship and its crew amounted to “a colossal failure in the management of the companies responsible for the safe operation of the El Faro”.

Keller and Roth-Roffy’s exchange came on the ninth day of this the second round of the board’s investigation. Friday should be the final day of this round.

A third round of hearing into the sinking is very likely but a date is not yet set.

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Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.
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