Jacksonville, FL - TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico not only kept track of their “reliability”- based on ship’s departing on time- but they got incentives for meeting the mark.
Vice President of Operations Jimmy Wagstaff told the Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation that the company uses the metric to promote themselves to customers on the Jacksonville to Puerto Rico route. It’s measured by whether the TMPR vessels- which formerly included El Faro- left on schedule. If that happened enough, management gets a performance incentive.
“But I’ll note that’s not our focus. Our focus is making sure that cargo is loaded safely and our organization is operating safely. That is our main objective,” Wagstaff says.
Conversely, if they’re consistently getting held up, Wagstaff says his job is to figure out what’s going wrong- and blame normally doesn’t fall on the ship.
“From a terminal perspective, we’re looking at what cargos are coming in late, if there are truck issues. That’s typically where our issues are, is the trucking community trying to get the containers in to the terminal,” he says.
Even with delayed departures, investigators found that most TMPR vessels were arriving on time. Wagstaff says that’s largely because they build a four hour cushion in to the route.
In terms of what, other than trucking issues, could hold up a shipment, Wagstaff was asked about an email between himself and Relief Terminal Manager Ronald Rodriguez. The email asked whether to hold up a ship for some incoming cargo, and it was sent around the same time of a scheduled departure.
“My read on this, is it’s going to come through the gate, through the scales, up the ramp, and go on board. And what Mr. Rodriguez seems to be asking you is, ‘do we wait’,” said CGMBI Board Member Keith Fawcett.
“Yes,” responded Wagstaff.
Fawcett followed up to clarify that meant the ship waits, and Wagstaff says it does.
Investigators have previously questioned whether last minute cargo loading took place, especially at the expense of ship stability. Wagstaff himself was questioned about an incident where priority cargo was mixed up on shore, causing a discrepancy in how it was being loaded. He told the Board that stability is always key, and if that means cargo has to wait than that’s what happens.
He was further questioned, however, on at least two incidents where El Faro could be seen listing- in one incident Captain Michael Davidson stopped loading operations because the list was around 3.5 degrees. Just a few weeks later, ahead of the accident voyage, cargo loading also had to be quickly addressed when the ship listed more than 4 degrees, by the estimation of investigators.
Wagstaff says neither he nor TOTE did any investigation in to those incidents to determine how to prevent them from happening again.
WOKV will continue to follow the CGMBI. Get instant updates on Twitter.