ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

Sponsored By: Two Men and a Truck
cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
73°
Sct Thunderstorms
H 85° L 75°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    73°
    Current Conditions
    Sct Thunderstorms. H 85° L 75°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day Created with Sketch.
    83°
    Afternoon
    Sct Thunderstorms. H 85° L 75°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day Created with Sketch.
    77°
    Evening
    Sct Thunderstorms. H 85° L 75°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

Local
“Reluctance” to file formal complaints from crew of El Faro, other vessels
Close

“Reluctance” to file formal complaints from crew of El Faro, other vessels

“Reluctance” to file formal complaints from crew of El Faro, other vessels
Photo Credit: TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico

“Reluctance” to file formal complaints from crew of El Faro, other vessels

Amid questions about the leadership qualities of El Faro’s Captain, new potential concerns are surfacing on how closely the ship’s operator kept to its own crewing and oversight policies.

Through the Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation on the El Faro sinking so far, investigators have presented information that shows crew evaluations were not done in accordance with the timeline in TOTE’s procedures. Of those that were filed, some were not completed and signed per the company’s regulations.  Former TOTE Services Crewing Manager Melissa Clark- who is now the Crewing Administrator for Crowley Maritime- says she raised that concern with her supervisor, but the response was only to copy him as she sent out reminders to the vessels that deadlines were coming.

FULL COVERAGE: El Faro sinking

Some of the things that investigators believe to be missing from these files include specific details of disciplinary action. Specifically, an incident that’s been referenced multiple times in the MBI involved a Chief Mate on El Faro falling asleep multiple times while on watch. He was later demoted, and the MBI said the demotion is in his file, but the reasoning is not.

Clark says she’s unsure how that information didn’t wind up in the file. Just ahead of the MBI wrapping for the day, the Board Chair said TOTE had found a hard copy of a warning letter given to the Chief Mate on this matter, and it was introducing it as an exhibit.

In another instance, Clark says she informed the company that her office had a large workload.

“I felt at the time I could have used additional staff,” Clark says.

She told investigators she didn’t get any additional help ahead of the sinking, but says a temp was added soon before she left the company.

The questioning comes as investigators look at the shoreside support available to vessels.

Captain Peter Villacampa, a former Master of El Faro’s sister ship, El Morro, says he was always able to get assistance and repairs lined up as needed through the company, in his roughly 14 years on the bridge of the ship. There was one point in 2012, when El Morro had some scheduled maintenance pushed off, and an audit report read by investigators said the company’s reorganization was at least partially to blame.

“There was an intermediate non-conformance issued by TSI as a result of the failing maintenance procedures on board the vessel. The root cause of the problem was traced to lack of communication between the ship staff and office staff,” says the audit report, as read by the Board.

Villacampa says they had lost two of three Port Engineers in Jacksonville, causing the delay, but it was able to be resolved through an increase in vessel visits and oversight of the maintenance.

The larger question, though, is whether the crew is willing to come forward to access any potential shoreside support.

AUDIO: El Faro Captain reports marine emergency in final shoreside communication

During testimony earlier this week, a former Able-Bodied Seaman spoke about the “real world”, where he believes he would be fired for bringing a complaint to the company or Coast Guard. Clark said there was a definite reluctance to come forward among the crew. Specifically, she was asked whether she’d heard any complaints about El Faro Captain Michael Davidson’s leadership. She says there was a general sense of frustration, but nobody wanted to give details.

“Was that your general experience on other vessels like the El Yunque,” asked MBI Chair Captain Jason Neubauer.

“Absolutely,” Clark responded.

“Would you say those comments are common from almost every vessel you visited,” asked Neubauer.

“Yes sir,” said Clark.

Villacampa confirmed that, when he ran El Morro, he would have been able to see all incoming and outgoing emails. He also had to give permission to any crew member that was seeking to use the ship’s phone. Those answers are helping the MBI get the greater context for whether issues at sea could truly be anonymously reported.

Crew frustration and turnover has been another consistent area of scrutiny for the MBI, and it surfaced once again in Thursday’s testimony. The former Able-Bodied Seaman described a tense environment on board that sometimes pitted crew members against each other. Clark confirmed in her testimony that the division is something they were actively addressing at the time.

An email with Clark, a Chief Mate, and another company official talked about needing a “divide and conquer” strategy for El Faro and her other sister vessel El Yunque.

“Regarding crew cooperation and setting expectations with regard to the crew, making sure that policies were being followed and enforced, and also in an attempt to get away from the licensed v unlicensed, us v them mentality. So we discussed different ways to ensure the unlicensed crew felt comfortable bringing forth concerns, any issues that they had, and work collectively as a team, and boost morale, and that sort of thing,” Clark said, explaining the meaning of the email to the Board.

That was implemented through conversations with the ships’ senior officers, according to Clark. Nevertheless, one of the sources of tension remained even through what would become El Faro’s final voyage- the decisions on who would staff TOTE’s new Marlin class of vessels.

Davidson had sought a position on the new vessels, and was initially denied. Email communications showed that decision had changed, and he was going to become a Master on one of the vessels, but then there was another internal decision not to award him the ship after all. Prior testimony has detailed the reason TOTE says they changed their decision, but it now seems that Davidson was not definitively told one way or the other what was going to happen.

“Afternoon. It’s looking like I won’t be home until 03 December. They have no one to relieve me and now I’m actually on my scheduled rotation, which has me home for Christmas. Again, I feel taken advantage of… but, they pay really good. Who knows how long this good fortune will last. I have no idea if I’m even going on the Marlin class vessels yet,” says an email from Davidson on September 24th, as read by the Board.

The ship’s Voyage Data Recorder transcript also shows Davidson and the Chief Mate on the final voyage were both talking about being “in line for the choppin’ block” and “waitin’ to get screwed”.

Clark says the decisions and communications relating to the Marlin class were, largely, not handled by her office. She says she thought there were better candidates than Davidson, and she did write an email that was critical of him, but she told the MBI that the email was just relaying the feelings of those involved in the selection process.

GALLERY: Inside the third MBI hearing session

The attorney for Davidson’s widow, William Bennett, brought Clark back to when Davidson was first taken on by TOTE in 2013. Bennett says Davidson resigned his prior vessel because the company wanted him to move a ship with a steering gear problem under its own power, but he considered that a safety rick, so he refused and ordered tugs. That company had previously used TOTE for managing and crewing, so Davidson reached out to Clark, who he had previously worked with. She told him that they didn’t have a Master’s job at the time, to which Davidson responded that he would be willing to take a post as Third Mate.

“He was willing to give up his seagoing career as a Captain over a safety concern. That’s pretty honorable, isn’t it,” Bennett asked.

“Yes,” Clark responded.

Davidson did ultimately come on as Third Mate, and was later promoted to Master of El Morro, before eventually leading El Faro.

Villacampa says he was always able to get repairs when needed, and despite the increasing pace of work, there was no real fall in the assistance they got or pressure to be on time. He says there were checklists and guidelines for a range of scenarios, including critical operations.

There were some areas that he says they had to figure things out themselves, though, including how to use the Bon Voyage System.

“I don’t recall any formal training. It was just something that between myself and the three mates, we just played around with it and found what suited us, what we needed, and in turn we taught each other how to use the system,” Villacampa says.

BVS takes forecast information and adds in wind and sea conditions, while plotting it with the ship’s location. We’ve heard prior testimony that BVS is a system which Davidson relied on, and which had a one-time glitch that caused the ship to receive a duplicated storm track in the hours ahead of the sinking.

In the event of heavy weather, Villacampa says he was always able to get navigational help or other advice from the shore. He says he was not required to get permission, though, if he wanted to change the route.

WOKV continues to follow the latest from the MBI.  Get instant updates on Twitter.

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

The Latest News Headlines

  • Here's a roundup of news trending across the nation and the world today. What to know now: 1. Syrian attack: The White House is warning Syria that there will be a “heavy price” if a chemical weapons attack is carried out in that country. The “United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children,” according to a statement from the administration. The White House noted that the preparations intelligence sources discovered “are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017, chemical weapons attack. As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.'  2. CBO score on health care: The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 22 million fewer people will have health care coverage in the next decade if the Senate health care bill passes and is signed into law. According to the CBO, 15 million people would be uninsured by 2018. The other 7 million would lose coverage by 2026. The 22 million number is compared to the estimated coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act. 3. Supreme Court travel ban ruling: The Supreme Court ended its session on Monday saying it would hear arguments in the fall over President Trump’s travel ban, but, in the meantime, allow parts of the executive order to go into effect. The court ruled that people from the six countries named in the executive order -- Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- could be barred from entering the country if they have no “bona fide” relationship with anyone in the United States.  4. Another Cosby hearing: A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in California to set a trial date for a lawsuit that accuses Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting a teenager at the Playboy Mansion in 1974. Judy Huth said Cosby assaulted her in one of the bedrooms of the mansion when she was 15. A Pennsylvania jury failed to come to a verdict two weeks ago in Cosby’s criminal trial on charges he sexually assaulted Andrea Constand in his Philadelphia home in 2004. Authorities there say they will retry that case.  5. Baylor being investigated: Baylor University officials have confirmed that the NCAA is conducting an investigation into reports of sexual assaults at the country’s largest Baptist-sponsored university. The school’s football coach, Art Briles, was fired, and the school’s president, Ken Starr, resigned in the wake of the scandal that has seen several women file suit against the school, saying it mishandled claims of rape against football players and other students.  And one more Three journalists at CNN have resigned after the network retracted a story that linked a friend of President Donald Trump’s to a Russian bank. According to the network, the story, which connected Trump campaign team executive Anthony Scaramucci to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, “did not meet CNN’s editorial standards and has been retracted. Links to the story have been disabled. CNN apologizes to Mr. Scaramucci.” Thomas Frank, who wrote the story; Eric Lichtblau, an editor; and Lex Haris, who oversaw a new investigative unit at CNN, all resigned after the story was retracted. In case you missed it
  • The Supreme Court on Monday announced that it would listen to arguments surrounding President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban during its October sitting. >> Read more trending news
  • Police say the body of a woman was found Monday inside a family bathroom at an Oklahoma Walmart. At this time, police are not sure how long the woman was in the bathroom at the Sand Springs store. >> Read more trending news According to police, employees assumed that the family bathroom was out of order because it was locked. Employees placed an out-of-order sign on the door that remained there through the weekend. On Monday, employees unlocked the bathroom door and found the woman.  Sand Springs Police say their preliminary investigation shows nothing suspicious about the woman's death.
  • Actor Alec Baldwin’s career has seen a huge boost since he began portraying President Donald J. Trump last year on “Saturday Night Live,” and it appears that “SNL” fans are not the only ones who are watching.  Baldwin’s wife, Hilaria Baldwin, took to her Instagram page on Saturday, prior to “SNL’s” season finale, to post a short video of the couple’s 3-year-old daughter, Carmen, talking with her father about the upcoming show. >> Read more trending news “Carmen, what day does Daddy play Donald Trump?” Hilaria Baldwin asks from behind the camera.  “Sa-doo-day,” Carmen responds.  “Then we go like this with our hands,” Alec Baldwin says in his Trump voice, hands waving in front of him. “And we say, ‘Saturday. Saturday. Saturday. OK everybody, it’s Saturday.’” Carmen, her eyes and face scrunched up to match Baldwin’s, watches her father’s face and, waving her own little hands, repeats each thing he says in a gravelly voice. She giggles in his arms at the end as Baldwin dissolves into laughter.  More than 220,000 people have viewed the video since it was posted Saturday. Most of those who commented on it were blown away by the cuteness.  “Oh my Lord, I’m laughing out loud,” one viewer said. “It’s 12 am….woke my baby…lol.” “This gave me life,” another said. 

The Latest News Videos