The U.S. Coast Guard has released its final action memo on the loss of the S.S. El Faro and its 33 crew members during a 2015 hurricane near Crooked Island, Bahamas.
In the final action memo, Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft approved the findings of fact, analysis and conclusions detailed in the Marine Board of Investigation’s Report of Investigation (ROI), essentially marking it as the official Coast Guard position on the cause of the marine casualty.
The Commandant concluded that the primary cause of the casualty was the decision to navigate El Faro too close to the path of Hurricane Joaquin, along with other contributing factors:
- an ineffective safety management system within the operating company, TOTE Services, Incorporated;
- American Bureau of Shipping’s failures to uncover or otherwise resolve longstanding deficiencies that adversely affected the safety and seaworthiness of vessels on multiple occasions; and
- failure of the Coast Guard to adequately oversee the third party in this case, and the investigation reveals that the Coast Guard has not sustained the proficiency and policy framework to do so in general.
“The loss of the El Faro and its crew members was tragic and preventable. The Coast Guard will take appropriate action on all that we have learned from this investigation,” Zukunft said. “El Faro’s heartbreaking story points to the need for all maritime stakeholders to zealously recommit to both the safety of our mariners and to professionalism of the maritime industry.”
The final action memo also outlines the final agency actions that will be taken in response to the board’s recommendations. The assistant commandant for prevention policy, Rear Adm. John Nadeau, will lead the Commandant’s efforts in response to the recommendations.
“The tragic story of the El Faro points to the need for a strong and enduring commitment from all elements of the safety framework: vessel owner, authorized class society, and the Coast Guard,” Nadeau said. “As the lead agency of the U.S. Flag Administration, the Coast Guard is ultimately responsible to monitor the performance of third party organizations entrusted with the safety of U.S. ships. The Coast Guard takes the implementation of the safety recommendations in the Commandant’s Final Action Memo very seriously and is committed to providing sustainable policy, oversight, and accountability both internally and externally.”