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Marine Board Focuses On Ship Inspections In El Faro Probe

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Coast Guard hearing into October’s sinking of the cargo freighter El Faro on Wednesday focused on routine ship inspections.

El Faro was without power when it encountered Hurricane Joaquin near the Bahamas and went down, killing all 33 crew members on board.

Jacksonville maritime law expert Rod Sullivan said testimony has shifted from weather to ship safety and whether it’s been compromised by the privatization of ship inspections.

“Now, companies pay the American Bureau of Shipping to do the inspections and the Coast Guard simply audits,” Sullivan said. “The questions that are being asked this week are is the alternative compliance program working well enough or should we go back to having the Coast Guard do these inspections.”

This is the second round of hearings in the Coast Guard’s investigation into El Faro’s sinking.  A third round of hearings will likely be held to go over the information on El Faro’s voyage data recorder, similar to an airplane’s black box.  The device was found last month still attached to El Faro’s main mast in 15,000 feet of water. 

The VDR has yet to be retrieved, however.

Coast Guard officials have said the El Faro investigation could lead to changes in the laws that govern shipping.