Coast Guard May Withdraw Some Civil Actions on the SS El Faro and Tote Maritime on Legal Technicalities

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Word is that the Coast Guard legal team is worried that  civil citations recommended by a formal US Marine Board of Investigation into the loss of the SS El Faro may not stick because of legal technicalities.

As a result, the Coast Guard, in a headquarters review of the recommendations, may drop at least one item.

Says one player:  “The legal team feels they need to have a formal ship’s log to make some of the civil actions stick.”

Particularly at issue is the citations of Tote for not briefing the Polish “riding gang” on safety measures.

“Do you need a formal ship’s log to cite the company?” one mariner asked. “The log is at the bottom of the ocean, but by all the testimony of the Marine Board and the bridge recordings, it seems apparent that the riding crew was not briefed on safety or included in drills.”

The Polish workers were converting the vessel for extended duty in Alaska when the ship sank in Hurricane Joaquin in October of 2015.

The civil penalties proposed against TOTE were recommended more than a year ago.  They deal with these alleged infractions:

  • Tote violated rest hours for deck officers in a systematic manner, specifically for Second Mate Danielle Randolph, the Marine Board found.
  • Moreover, TOTE did not adequately give safety training to the “riding crew” of Polish nationals on board to convert the ship for Alaska use.
  • The company also failed to report to the Coast Guard repairs to lifesaving equipment as required by law.
  • Tote also is alleged to have not reported to the Coast Guard repairs to the ship’s main boiler

Sources with knowledge of the process say that citations of some sort will be brought, but  may not reflect the Marine Board’s list in full.

It has been nearly a year since the Commandant of the Coast Guard said that reform of safety standards in the merchant marine must be quickly made. The Jacksonville Sector Coast Guard station recommended the charges this summer.

“Is a technicality like the presence of a physical log really that important that it would delay a pretty straightforward civil censure?” asked one expert close to the case. “What do you tell the members of the families here? ‘Sorry. No log. No case.'”

 

 

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