Investigators look into safety practices on day one of third El Faro hearing

The third and final round of US Coast Guard (USCG) Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) hearings into the El Faro disaster began in Jacksonville, Florida, on Monday with focus on ship conditions and the safety culture of the cargo vessel, according to Reuters and the Associated Press.

El Faro sank off the Bahamas on October 1, 2015, when it was caught in Hurricane Joaquin off the Bahamas. All 33 crew members were lost.

Investigators questioned a former chief mate on the El Faro, Captain Raymond Thompson, on a range of issues including crew fatigue and cargo lashings.

Captain Thompson said that he was not sure if life jackets were stored on the bridge as required.

Information from the vessel’s voyage data recorder (VDR) indicated that as the ship was sinking crew on the bridge were scrambling to get life jackets.

This hearing, expected to last for two weeks, is the only one conducted after the recovery and analysis of the VDR.

The previous rounds of hearings were held in February and May of 2016, also in Jacksonville, which was the port of departure for the ship’s final voyage headed for San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The first hearing examined the ship’s history of pre-accident events, crew members’ duties and qualifications, and the USCG’s search and rescue effort.

And the second one looked at shipboard operations, cargo loading, the vessel’s stability, the weather forecasted and the weather that was encountered.

After these hearings are completed USCG will release a report which will probably include recommendations on how to avoid a similar disaster.

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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