U.S. Coast Guard Investigation Board Releases Transcripts from El Faro Hearing

stern of the El Faro as seen from underwater ROV
The stern of the El Faro is shown on the ocean floor taken from an underwater video camera on November 1, 2015. Courtesy National Transportation Safety Board/Handout via REUTERS

The U.S. Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation has completed its review of the transcripts for the first public hearing session into the loss of the SS El Faro held in February.

The first session focused on the pre-accident historical events relating to the loss, the regulatory compliance record of the El Faro, crewmember duties and qualifications, past operations of the vessel and the Coast Guard’s Search and Rescue operations.

A second session, held in May, covered shipboard operations, cargo loading, lashing and stowage operations for the accident voyage, as well as examine the vessel’s analysis of stability and weather conditions forecasted as compared to what was encountered.

The Coast Guard has released the transcripts, more than 1,500 pages, covering all 10 days of the first session.

The transcripts have been made available HERE.

The U.S.-flagged El Faro sank off the coast of the Bahamas on October 1 during Hurricane Joaquin with the loss of all 33 crew members.

The Marine Board remains in the fact-finding phase of its investigation and a third hearing session, anticipated for this winter, will examine additional elements of the investigation including information retrieved from the El Faro’s Voyage Data Recorder, which was recovered in August. The NTSB, leading the recovery effort, said it was able to retrieve 26 hours of information from the device, providing insight into the ship’s final hours.

The final hearing session is anticipated to conclude the fact-finding phase of the investigation. Once the Coast Guard’s fact finding is completed, the MBI will shift to the analysis phase and work independently from the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation.

The goal of the investigation is to determine as closely as possible the factors that contributed to the accident; whether there is evidence that any act of misconduct, inattention to duty, negligence or willful violation of the law on the part of any licensed or certificated person contributed to the casualty; and
whether there is evidence that any Coast Guard personnel or any representative or employee of any other government agency or any other person caused or contributed to the casualty.

Once the MBI completes its report of investigation they will submit it to the commandant of the Coast Guard.

After the commandant reviews the report and makes his final determinations on any safety recommendations, it will be made public.