FAQs

EL FARO SITUATION
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Last updated: 9:00pm EST, Thursday, June 2, 2016

What was the timeline of the El Faro incident?

  • Tues., Sept. 29 – El Faro departs Jacksonville at 8:10pm EST for Puerto Rico with 33 aboard.
  • Thur., Oct. 1 – 7:20am – El Faro’s last communication. The Captain reported:
    • Vessel had lost propulsion.
    • Vessel experienced water ingress into a cargo hold through a scuttle (small opening to allow crew access into a hold).
    • Crew had secured the scuttle and was successfully pumping out the water from the hold.
    • Vessel was experiencing a 15 degree list but it was unknown whether it was a result of water ingress or the weather conditions.
    • U.S. Coast Guard notified and makes attempts to contact the vessel.
  • Fri., Oct. 2 – Coast Guard assets search for the El Faro. They find no trace of the ship.
  • Sat., Oct. 3 – Coast Guard finds a life ring from the El Faro.
  • Sun., Oct. 4 – Coast Guard finds a large debris field that includes materials they believe came from the El Faro. TOTE assets find a container that came from the El Faro.
  • Mon., Oct. 5 – Coast Guard reports finding the remains of a seafarer wearing a survival suit. Coast Guard determines the El Faro sank.
  • Tues., Oct. 6 – National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) begins investigation into the sinking.
  • Wed., Oct 7- Coast Guard announces it will suspend search and rescue operations at sunset.

Was the vessel’s course influenced by financial or time constraints?

  • Safety of our crew is always our number one priority. No schedule or financial obligation is more important than the safety of our seafarers.

Have you communicated with families/loved ones of those affected?

  • Yes, we have reached out to all the families of the 33 individuals onboard and are in constant communication with them regarding updates on the El Faro.
  • A 24-hour family hotline and dedicated family website was activated Thursday, October 1.
  • Family members and loved ones were assisted in travel to Jacksonville where in-person family meetings were held.
  • Twice-daily conference calls with the Coast Guard and family members were held throughout the search.

What was the ship carrying?

  • The El Faro was carrying TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico’s standard cargo – grocery, cars, retail products – products needed for daily life in Puerto Rico.

What is the age of ship?

  • The El Faro was built in 1975 and was updated in 2006.

Why was she sailing when you knew there was bad weather?

  • At the time of the El Faro’s departure, the vessel’s officers and crew were monitoring what was then Tropical Storm Joaquin
  • Our crew are trained to deal with unfolding weather situations and are well prepared and equipped to respond to emerging situations while at sea.

Did the age of the vessel contribute to this incident?

  • El Faro was classed by ABS and regularly inspected and certified by ABS and the Coast Guard.
  • The vessel was originally built for and served in the demanding Alaskan trade. It was regularly maintained and updated throughout its life.

What is the competency of the crew?

  • All TOTE crews are fully qualified members of the Seafarers International Union and the American Maritime Officers
  • All crew members are fully trained to US and international standards

What level of experience did the captain have?

  • The captain was a professional mariner for 20 years, with 10 years as captain. He had been sailing with TOTE for the last three years.

Who planned the course for the vessel?

  • As is standard, the voyage plan is created by the ship’s navigator, reviewed by the second in command and approved by the captain. TOTE Services has great confidence in its highly experienced officers.

What are the names and hometowns of crew members?

  • The crew consists of 28 U.S. citizens and five Polish nationals
  • The Coast Guard released the names of those on board on Oct. 7.
  • Specific information on the crew can be found here: http://elfaroincident.com/resources/el-faro-crew-3/

Lifesaving Equipment:

  • El Faro had two lifeboats, one on each side of the ship. The lifeboats could be launched without ships’ power from their gravity davits. Each lifeboat could hold 43 persons and had survival rations onboard.
    • The lifeboats on the El Faro were open type. One propelled by manual power, the other by a small diesel engine.
    • The lifeboats were constructed of Fiber Reinforced Plastic (fiberglass).
    • Voids in the hull were filled with buoyant foam to provide positive stability and self-righting. Buoyancy material must be accepted by the Coast Guard.
  • El Faro also had five life rafts onboard. There were (2) 25-person life rafts on each side of the ship plus an additional 6-person life raft on the bow. Total life raft capacity was 106 persons. Life rafts are normally manually launched over the side. They are designed to float free and self-deploy.

Were the lifeboats properly functioning?

  • The lifeboats, davits, and all other Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) equipment onboard are regularly inspected and certified by the Coast Guard and the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS). There were no known deficiencies with the SOLAS equipment onboard the El Faro.

Was the El Faro scheduled to be decommissioned?

  • No, the El Faro was not scheduled to be decommissioned. The El Faro was to be transferred to the West Coast to serve in the Alaskan Trade. Ownership of the vessel was to remain within the TOTE organization.
  • The El Faro was scheduled to be replaced in the Jacksonville to Puerto Rico trade by a new vessel which is currently under construction.

What were the contractors doing onboard?

  • In preparation for transferring to the West Coast, contractors on board were carrying out preparation work, such as running electrical cable for modifications to meet the cargo needs for that trade. These modifications had no association with the integrity or propulsion of the vessel.

Where were the contractors from?

  • They were employed by a well-known, marine engineering firm TOTE Services contracted.

What is TOTE’s comment on the debris washing up in the Bahamas?

  • TOTE Services has verified that the material that is reaching various Bahama island beaches is from the El Faro. The company is now working with response professionals and will coordinate with all local authorities to develop a suitable response plan, and will keep all local authorities and the NTSB informed.

Questions related to compensation

  • We confirm that families have been contacted regarding compensation.  We do understand that in these difficult and tragic circumstances, a number of families may have pressing financial burdens and we want to ensure that we are there to help immediately.  All details of these discussions are, of  course, confidential among the parties as they should be. Our efforts remain focused on providing care and support and this step is a step for those who may choose it.
  • Since the loss of the El Faro, we have focused every effort on supporting the families of those on board. An important part of this support has entailed reaching fair and swift legal settlements for those who may choose them. As of October 4, we can confirm that we have settled financially with 23 families through a respectful and equitable mediation process. Our support of all the families will continue.

Does TOTE have a comment regarding any NTSB investigation?

  • From the beginning we have welcomed the NTSB. We are fully cooperating with their  investigation and appreciate the hard work and dedication that goes into this process.  We will thoroughly read the official report and study any recommendations closely.  Our goal throughout the investigation is to learn everything possible about the loss of our crew and vessel.  We welcome any safety related advice that benefits our seafarers: there is no more important legacy for our employees and their families.

Does TOTE have a comment regarding the Navy finding the vessel?

  • We are aware that the El Faro was located by the Navy vessel Apache. TOTE is grateful to the Apache crew and NTSB members who have worked so hard to locate our ship. We have fully supported this search and the investigation process and we continue to keep the crew and their loved ones in our thoughts and prayers.

Does TOTE have a comment on the Navy locating the bridge deck?

  • The NTSB has confirmed that the US Navy located the El Faro bridge deck. The search is ongoing for the vessel data recorder. TOTE is grateful to the women and men engaged in the search.

Does TOTE have a comment on the NTSB Investigative team locating the VDR?

  • TOTE wishes to thank the crew of the research vessel Atlantis and the team from the NTSB for their persistence and success in finding the El Faro’s VDR. TOTE is hopeful that the information contained will help with the goal to learn everything possible about the loss of our crew and vessel. We look forward to the NTSB report and welcome safety related recommendations that benefit our seafarers; there is no more important legacy for our employees and their families.