Sister Ship Inspection Records Show El Faro Problems



The 790-foot cargo ship El Faro built in 1975, sank this month off the coast of the Bahamas in the middle of a hurricane, killing all 33 people aboard.  On the morning of Oct. 1 the El Faro en route from Jacksonville to San Juan had stalled near the Bahamas, taking on water and leaning 15 degrees.  The Coast Guard could reach only after two days to the ship’s last location because of Category-4 Hurricane Joaquin in the ship’s path.

The National Transportation Safety Board in its effort to find out the cause, has last week started reviewing its records and interviewing the captain of the vessel’s sister ship, El Yunque, which was operated by the same company and passed El Faro at sea just before it disappeared.  The ships are owned and operated by subsidiaries of Tote Inc. of Princeton, N.J.  Both the ships were regularly providing food, cars and other supplies to Puerto Rico from Jacksonville.

  • The Coast Guard records show that El Yunque was issued a “no sail” order three months ago on account of its  deteriorated lifeboat machinery.
  • It had maintenance problems for decades.
  • It frequently took on water and had problems with its lifeboat equipment.
  • The vessel was cleared to sail after the manufacturer “collaborated” on repairs and tests, Coast Guard records show.
  • El Faro had engine problems.
  • The  lifeboat recovered  was heavily damaged.
  • One person was found dead inside the survival suit, which is meant to keep people afloat and protect them from hypothermia.
  • Michael Henry, a cook who spent 92 days aboard El Faro this year, said the ship had problems with dropping one of its lifeboats.

On Wednesday, Joanna Johnson on behalf of her son, Lonnie Jordan, one of the El Faro crew member filed a $100 million lawsuit against the company in a Florida state court.  “The ship wasn’t seaworthy,” said Willie E. Gary, the lawyer representing the family. “It shouldn’t have left the dock.”

 But, at a news conference last week, Tote executives stressed that its ships were inspected and accredited.

Source: The New York Times