Tote official declined to investigate El Faro chief mate asleep on watch

A Tote Services safety official on Tuesday told the US Coast Guard (USCG) Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) into the El Faro disaster that he had not recommended a full investigation of a chief mate who had been photographed sleeping on watch in an earlier incident.

The cargo ship El Faro went down with the loss of all crew on October 1, 2015, when it was caught in Hurricane Joaquin off the Bahamas.

Tote was the owner of the ship. John Lawrence, who was manager of safety and operations, at the time, told the MBI he had received anonymous cellphone photos of the sleeping mate.

Instead of a full investigation of the chief mate, Lawrence planned to pass the allegations to the human resources department and to ask El Faro captain Michael Davidson to remind crew that cell phones were not to be used on watch.

Lawrence, who is now director fleet safety for Tote, said he reached that decision after talking with a Tote vice president and the vessel’s operations manager.

The chief mate was subsequently disciplined, Lawrence said.

These are the third and final round of MBI hearings into the El Faro disaster. They are set to end this Friday.

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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