Families of bereaved Polish El Faro crewmembers take Tote to court

The five Polish crewmembers among the 33 who perished when the El Faro sank on October 1 off the Bahamas have filed a suit against the ship’s owner and the estate of its master, Michael Davidson.

The lawsuit’s primary claim states that the captain kept sailing even after warnings that inbound Hurricane Joaquin would rapidly intensify into a strong hurricane.

“The shipowners and operators were in intimate contact with Captain Davidson throughout this voyage,” said attorney Jason Margulies.  “They had many opportunities to tell him to pull back, or change route to a safer route.”

The lawsuit also takes aim at the state of the 40-year-old ship, owned by Tote, suggesting it was in need of urgent repairs.

“Other crewmembers that were on this vessel as late as this year have described this ship as a rust bucket,” said Margulies. “They have described the ship as having leaks on the calmest days.”

With lawsuits stacking up against it to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, Tote filed an action in federal court last Friday seeking to limit its liability to the value of the ship and its cargo.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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