No ‘urgent’ problems with El Faro boilers

TOTE Services shipmanagement director says machinery in ‘fine shape’.

Crew of El Faro

The US Coast Guard released the names of El Faro's crew members as it announced that it suspended search efforts.

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A TOTE Maritime executive said there were no urgent problems with boilers on the El Faro before it sank off the Bahamas last year.

John Fisker-Andersen, the director of shipmanagement for subsidiary TOTE Services, told the US Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation that a third-party survey found that the main propulsion steam boilers required maintenance at the time of an upcoming dry docking.

And while parts of the boilers suffered severe deterioration associated with normal wear, TOTE would have addressed any urgent or immediate problems would, Fisker-Andersen  said during the fourth-day of a hearing into the 1 October sinking.

The 5,330-lane-metre El Faro (built 1975) was in “fine shape”, he told investigators.

‘Well attended to’

“It was well attended to by a very skilled and experienced crew,” he said.

The multi-day Jacksonville hearing is the first round in an investigation into the sinking of the US-flag ship, which went down with 33 crew members during Hurricane Joaquin.

The condition of the boilers on the steam-powered ship has been a subject of questioning since the weeks after the incident, when investigators revealed that TOTE had previously shut down a boiler for inspection but restarted it before the casualty.

‘Unjust’ questioning

During today’s proceedings, Blank Rome lawyer William Bennett, who is representing the widow of El Faro master Capt Michael Davidson, lashed out at one board member for what he described as “unjust” questioning.

The Coast Guard’s Keith Fawcett asked Fisker-Andersen about an internal email critical of Davidson’s leadership style and of the executive’s own description of Davidson as the least engaged of TOTE’s four masters.

“You’re taking this email which has already been discounted by executives with seagoing experience and creating soundbites and an atmosphere that is unjust,” Bennett said. “You have in your data collection over the last couple of months comments made by those who sailed with him who thought he was one of the finest officers he ever sailed with.”

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