Thousands sign petition launched by widow of El Faro seafarer demanding rule changes

The widow of one of the men who perished on the US cargo ship El Faro is using the tragedy to try and push through a law change.

Frank Hamm and 32 of his fellow crewmembers died when the 1975-built ship sank off the Bahamas on October 1, 2015 during Hurricane Joaquin.

His wife Rochelle, mother of five, launched a petition last year to get Congress to change legislation whereby ships would not be allowed to leave port in the event of bad weather being noted on the vessel’s intended route. The legislation, which she has named the Hamm Alert, also calls for changes in the maritime industry in the form of more oversight and regulation. Among the demands are for all US commercial vessels to have enclosed lifeboats equipped with survival supplies, as well as modifying the standards for commercial vessels’ life cycle and creating tougher standards for commissioning vessels after rebuilds or revisions. The petition can be accessed here.

More than 11,000 people have signed the petition and Hamm has also been meeting politicians and the authorities to get the law passed.

“This tragedy could have been prevented with more oversight of shipping companies, similar to air traffic controllers for planes, to stop companies from sending ships into dangerous weather,” she told the Associated Press in an interview this week.

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.


  1. The never ending saga of capital and labour, safety and profit against which international regulations remain impotent. Will domestic laws fair any better when a decision is weighed up against keeping ones job and other elements that come with that? “The Sociology of Industrial Injury” invites us to consider the structures of vulnerability in which many workers operate. Dated as it is, it is quite relevant. Laws are good to have in place, but they don’t seem to give society a conscience when share holders and board members are demanding a particular bottomline.

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