Jacksonville, FL — The newly released Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation Report on the El Faro sinking faults the ship's Master, Captain Michael Davidson, among the parties responsible for the tragedy. The fault is to the point where MBI Chairman Captain Jason Neubauer says, had Davidson survived, they would have recommended a negligence complaint against his mariner's credential.
Now, the attorney for Davidson’s widow is fighting back against the assessment.
"We have only had a brief opportunity to review the Coast Guard's report, however, based on this preliminary review, we believe there are serious omissions of critical facts and faulty analysis. Although he was the Captain of the El Faro and thus responsible for the safety of the vessel there are many other key factors that primarily caused the sinking of the vessel and thus we do not agree with all aspects of the USCG report," says the full statement from attorney William Bennett.
This statement to WOKV late Sunday followed one earlier in the day extended condolences to the families of those lost in the sinking and thanked the Coast Guard, MBI Chair Captain Jason Neubauer, and the other investigators in the case.
CONTINUING COVERAGE: The sinking of El Faro
Bennett’s statement is the sharpest of the “Parties In Interest” so far. As part of the MBI investigation, there were four PIIs named who both provided information to investigators and questioned MBI witnesses: TOTE, as parent to El Faro’s owner TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico and El Faro’s operator TOTE Services; Davidson, represented by his widow through Bennett; the American Bureau of Shipping, as El Faro’s surveyor under the Alternate Compliance Program inspection protocol; and Herbert Engineering.
GALLERY:El Faro's wreckage
The MBI did recommend civil penalty action against El Faro's operator, TOTE Services, over a failure to report two repairs to surveyors, potential failure in giving riding crew members required safety training, and failure to comply with work/rest standards.
"The El Faro and its crew were lost on our watch and for this we will be eternally sorry. Nothing we can do will bring back the remarkable crew, but everything we do can work to ensure that those who go to sea, serving us all, are in ever safer environments. The report, which we and so many others, whom we would like to thank, worked relentlessly on, is another piece of this sacred obligation that everyone who works upon the sea must study and embrace. The report details industry practices which need change. We are committed to working with every stakeholder on these comments and recommendations. We remain focused as we have from the start, on caring for the families of those we lost and working daily ashore and at sea to safeguard the lives of all mariners," says the full statement from TOTE.
GALLERY: Tributes to the El Faro crew
There are no penalties recommended against the American Bureau of Shipping, although the safety recommendations include the Coast Guard increasing its oversight under the Alternate Compliance Program training protocol.
“ABS received the U.S. Coast Guard MBI report and currently is reviewing same. ABS is dedicated to its mission of protecting life, property, and the environment and is committed to working with the Coast Guard and the U.S. shipping industry in improving safety standards and applying lessons learned. We meet regularly with the US Coast Guard (USCG) to review the Alternative Compliance Program (ACP) with the goal of sharing information and continuously improving the program. ABS remains saddened at the loss of the El Faro and its crew and will continue working with the USCG and the marine industry in an effort to prevent such a catastrophic event from happening again,” says the full statement from the American Bureau of Shipping.
We have mutiple requests out to Herbert Engineering and have not yet heard back.
Because of the NTSB’s ongoing investigation, we also requested their perspective on the MBI Report.
“The NTSB will review the Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigation report and thanks the U.S. Coast Guard for the tremendous support it has provided the NTSB throughout the El Faro investigation. The exhaustive efforts of both agencies seek to identify and correct the underlying causes of this tragedy. While each agency worked collaboratively to collect and confirm the facts, the reports will reflect the independent analysis required of each organization. The NTSB plans to release its report during a public meeting in Washington, Dec. 12, 2017,” says the full statement from an NTSB Spokesperson.
The NTSB was responsible for salvaging El Faro's Voyage Data Recorder- or black box- which was the deepest recovery of the device from a commercial ship in several decades. The more than 26 hours of data captured included conversations from the bridge and other data that helped investigators fill holes previously left because there were no survivors in this sinking.
While the full NTSB report with recommendations comes out later this year, the Board has already issued several recommendations dealing with mariner safety, which coincided with this year's hurricane season.
Feedback from the PIIs, as well as the families of the 33 people who died in the sinking, can be submitted over the next 30 days for consideration by the Coast Guard Commandant. The Commandant will ultimately determine what recommendations from the MBI Report will be ordered, what will be achieved through the help of other parties, and which of the recommendations will not be followed through on. There is no set timeline for when that order- or Final Action Memo- will be released.