USCG approves findings on El Faro sinking

The US Coast Guard released the Final Action Memo on December 21st regarding the loss of the El Faro and its 33 crewmembers during a 2015 hurricane near Crooked Island, Bahamas.

Commandant of the USCG, Admiral Paul Zukunft, approved the findings of fact, analysis, and conclusions detailed in the Marine Board of Investigation’s Report of Investigation (ROI), essentially marking it as the official Coast Guard position on the cause of the marine casualty.

Following the Commandant’s review of the ROI and comments received from Parties in Interest and families of the crew, Zukunft concluded that the primary cause of the casualty was the decision to navigate El Faro too close to the path of Hurricane Joaquin.

Contributing factors included:

(1) an ineffective safety management system within the operating company, TOTE Services, Incorporated

(2) American Bureau of Shipping’s failures to uncover or otherwise resolve longstanding deficiencies that adversely affected the safety and seaworthiness of vessels on multiple occasions

(3) A failure of the US Coast Guard to adequately oversee the third party in this case, and the investigation reveals that the USCG had not sustained the proficiency and policy framework to do so in general.

“The loss of the El Faro and its crewmembers was tragic and preventable. The Coast Guard will take appropriate action on all that we have learned from this investigation,” said Zukunft. “I thank the members of the Marine Board of Investigation for their exhaustive work and independent recommendations. El Faro’s heartbreaking story points to the need for all maritime stakeholders to zealously recommit to both the safety of our mariners and to professionalism of the maritime industry.”