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Posted: November 30, 2017

El Faro families provide feedback following Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation recommendations

Family members of the El Faro crew brought photos to place in the front row of the Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation hearing session on the ship's sinking.
Stephanie Brown
Family members of the El Faro crew brought photos to place in the front row of the Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation hearing session on the ship's sinking.

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By Stephanie Brown

Jacksonville, FL —

As the Coast Guard Commandant continues his review of recommendations put forward by a Marine Board of Investigation after their two year probe of the sinking of El Faro, we’ve confirmed there are dozens of comments from interested parties that have also been brought forward.

WOKV first told you back in October when, on the two year commemoration of the cargo ship going down in Hurricane Joaquin, the MBI issued its Report of Investigation that included 31 safety recommendations for how to prevent a tragedy like this in the future. The ROI also recommended four administrative changes and civil penalty action against the cargo ship’s operator.

FULL COVERAGE: The sinking of El Faro

Since then, the Coast Guard Commandant has been reviewing the ROI to determine which recommendations he concurs with, which he agrees with a caveat, and which he does not support. Of those he concurs with, the Commandant will then order change in areas he controls and create a plan for action among those he does not. All of those changes will be outlined in his Final Action Memo.

WOKV has now confirmed that, in addition to the work of the investigators, the Commandant has received 59 comments to also weigh in his review.

During the month after the ROI was released, the Coast Guard accepted comments from parties wanting to submit feedback. A Coast Guard Spokesperson says 20 comments were received from family members of the 33 people who died in the sinking, and 39 comments came from “Parties In Interest”- which are a few organizations that were designated by the MBI to have a stake in their probe. The content of these comments won’t be public until the Commandant’s FAM is released, but a Coast Guard Spokesperson says they are  being reviewed before any final decision is made.

“Although there is no specific timeframe for the release of the FAM, it is of the highest priority for the service; the Coast Guard is eager to move forward with the lessons learned and take actions to improve safety at sea,” says Coast Guard Spokesperson Lieutenant Amy Midgett.

When the ROI was released, some family members expressed intentions to submit comments, telling us they want to make sure the Coast Guard remembers the human toll left by the sinking. Those family members said their priority was ensuring there would be change after these deaths, so that 33 lives were not lost in vain.

The recommendations from the MBI deal with a wide range of areas- oversight, ship design, safety equiptment, crew training, weather forecast products, and more. The ROI found the ship’s proximity to Hurricane Joaquin was the key factor in the sinking, but the Coast Guard, El Faro’s Master Captain Michael Davidson, the owner/operator TOTE, and the surveyor/Alternate Class Society the American Bureau of Shipping all share responsibility.

The National Transportation Safety Board is releasing their own probable cause, findings, and recommendations later this month. The MBI and NTSB cooperated through much of the investigation, which included producing the NTSB’s longest ever transcript of a Voyage Data Recorder, or black box. The investigative groups broke to finalize their work independently earlier this year.


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