Hurricane-hit El Faro’s wind speed gauge had not worked for months

The US Coast Guard’s investigation into the sinking of the El Faro heard yesterday that the anemometer, the ship’s wind speed gauge, was probably not working as the ill-fated vessel headed into Hurricane Joaquin last autumn.

On Thursday, the investigating panel heard from other seafarers who had worked for El Faro’s owner, Tote. The 40-year-old ship sank off the Bahamas on October with the loss of all 33 crewmembers onboard. Around $16m of cargo was lost too.

Among key moments from the hearing yesterday, second mate Charles Baird, who was holidaying as the El Faro ventured out on its last voyage, texted the captain of the ship to warn of an inbound hurricane. The captain, Michael Davidson, replied that he was aware of the storm brewing and said he intended to head to the south of the hurricane. Baird also detailed how the anemometer had been bust for two or three months prior to its final voyage.

The captain of El Faro’s sister ship the El Yunque, Earl Loftfield, described the scene as his ship arrived where the El Faro had sunk. There were no signs of survivors, only oil bubbling from where the ship went down, he said.

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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