Nothing unusual about how El Faro cargo was secured, panel told

There was nothing unusual about how the cargo was secured on the El Faro for the cargo vessel’s fateful final journey, the hearing into the ship’s sinking heard on Monday.

A senior stevedore involved in lashing down the cargo, composed mostly of cars, said no special lashings were needed or requested, adding that the work was done in an efficient and timely manner. He also said there was no mention of weather being a concern that may require special lashings on the cargo.

The testimony came on the first day of the second week in the latest round of the US Coast Guard’s (USCG) Marine Board of Investigation into the sinking of the ship with the loss of all 33 crew members.

El Faro was en route from Jacksonville, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico, when it sank off the Bahamas on October 1, 2015 after being caught in Hurricane Joaquin.

Its wreckage was found a month later on the sea floor broken into two main parts.

Another line of questioning at the hearing on Monday asked if there was a conflict of interest in the role of the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), the company that inspected El Faro on behalf of USCG.

The potential conflict referred to ABS being a 50% owner of a firm, Herbert Engineering, which provides CargoMax software to El Faro’s parent company Tote.

A spokesman for CargoMax testified that there was a “firewall” between Herbert Engineering and ABS’ non-profit inspection arm.

ABS personnel testified last week about the final inspection of El Faro three months before it sank.

The hearing, in Jacksonville, is expected to conclude this week with the likelihood of there being a third hearing at future date, most probably after the ship’s voyage data recorder (VDR) has been recovered.

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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