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

Lindsey Kilbride

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, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.