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Lifeboat inspections in focus as El Faro hearing continues

The hearing into the sinking of the cargo ship El Faro was told on Tuesday that the annual inspection of the vessel’s lifeboat operations did not require the lifeboats to be put in the water.

A spokesman for American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) – a third party to which the US Coast Guard (USCG) outsourced its commercial shipping inspections – addressed the USCG Marine Board of Investigation at Jacksonville, Florida.

Senior surveyor Stephen Hohenshelt said that ABS’ annual survey involved the lifeboats being operationally tested including the davits, the winch and the break.

But the working of the lifeboats in water came under the responsibilities of USCG directly.

The El Faro went down with the loss of all 33 crew on October 1, 2015 when it was caught in Hurricane Joaquin off the Bahamas while en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville.

Tuesday, the second day of the second week of the second round of hearings into the tragedy, also heard from the captain of one of El Faro’s sister ships who said he had communicated with the El Faro’s captain about the storm.

Kevin Stith, captain of the El Yunque, said Michael Davidson, captain of the El Faro, told him by e-mail while both ships were at sea that he was aware of Joaquin and he planned to alter his course to pass 65 nautical miles south of it.

The hearings at the Prime Osborn Convention Center in Jacksonville will continue until the end of this week.

A third round of hearings is likely, probably after the ship’s voyage data recorder (VDR) has been recovered.

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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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