Federal Government Issues New Marine Safety Guidelines In Response To El Faro Sinking

Jun 30, 2017

In Jacksonville Friday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) addressed new NTSB new safety recommendations.
Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

Following the sinking of the El Faro cargo ship in October 2015, the National Transportation Safety Board has issued 10 new safety recommendations meant to better inform sailors of impending weather conditions.

The guidelines are being released after two hearings in Jacksonville into the ship’s sinking, which killed all 33 crew members aboard. El Faro set sail from Jacksonville toward Puerto Rico and sank near the Bahamas after losing power and drifting into the path of Hurricane Joaquin.

In Jacksonville Friday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said the crew was relying on days-old weather data, which was apparent in recordings of the crew recovered from the ocean.

“The sad thing that we heard on the voice recorder, (the captain) was getting Weather Service data that was two days old,” Nelson said. “With a hurricane, there’s a lot of difference in two days.”

He said the new recommendations, which address communication and timeliness, will better prepare sailors this summer.

“What they want to do is to update this data where it is almost only three hours old and to get that out to mariners, and that’ll save a lot of lives in the future,” he said.

Nelson is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the Transportation Safety Board and Coast Guard.  

The NTSB expects to wrap its investigation later this year. Safety recommendations are normally released at the end of an investigation, but NTSB officials wanted them available as hurricane season begins.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.