Everything seemed to be in order with the El Faro and its equipment when it underwent its final inspection, a US Coast Guard (USCG) investigating panel was told on Thursday, the fourth day of this second round of hearings into the fatal sinking of the ship.
Senior surveyor Mark LaRose told the USCG’s Marine Board of Investigation that when he went below deck and checked the equipment everything matched the information he had been given about the cargo vessel.
The El Faro was transporting cars from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico when it was caught in Hurricane Joaquin, lost its propulsive power and sank off the Bahamas on October 1 last year. All 33 crew members died.
LaRose conducted the inspection for the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) – the third party to which the USCG outsourced its commercial shipping inspections – in June, around three months before the tragedy.
He also noted the cleanliness of the engine room, saying that was usually a sign of pride taken in the vessel and in its overall maintenance.
LaRose was asked if the one-day notice he was given before conducting the inspection impaired his ability to do a good job. The rules recommend a 14-day notice period. LaRose said the shorter lead-time did not have a negative effect on his preparation.
The first USCG Marine Board of Investigation into the El Faro sinking was held in February. This second one is expected to last about two weeks.
So far this week’s hearing has heard: how El Faro’s captain had planned to avoid the storm that became Hurricane Joaquin; how a former captain of the ship had concerns about the vessel’s stability and the effectiveness of its boiler; and how weather forecasts and storm track data that El Faro received were outdated and inaccurate.