Senate Passes Maritime Safety Bill Following Sinking Of Jacksonville's El Faro

Sep 28, 2018

The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed legislation to address maritime safety issues raised by the sinking of the El Faro cargo ship in October 2015 that departed Jacksonville en route to Puerto Rico.

Editor's Note/Story Update: The U.S. House has also approved the legislation. At last check it was awaiting President Donald Trump's approval.

Original Story Continues:

Thirty-three crew members died on when the TOTE cargo ship lost propulsion, heading right into Category Four Hurricane Joaquin.

“The families of the El Faro crew deserve much of the credit for getting many of these potentially lifesaving measures through Congress,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida), who cosponsored the bill in the Senate.  

See Also: El Faro Archived Coverage

The legislation passed on Wednesday would mandate recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board after a series of hearings in Jacksonville at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.  Among the recommendations:

  • Freight vessels be outfitted with distress signaling and locating technology, float-free voyage data recorders with an emergency position indicating radio beacon and high water alarm sensors.
  •  The Coast Guard would establish an anonymous safety alert pilot program, allowing crew to communicate urgent safety concerns directly with the Coast Guard.
  • Vessels would receive timely and detailed weather forecasts.
  • A review of Coast Guard policies regarding ventilators, openings, fire dampers, stability standards and lifesaving equipment, such as survival suits and life jackets.
  • A review of Coast Guard policies and procedures for documenting major conversions of vessels.
  •  Improved training programs for Coast Guard personnel to conduct comprehensive and targeted oversight of all third-party organizations that act on behalf of the Coast Guard.
  • An audit of safety management systems to ensure the safety of ships at sea and directs the Coast Guard commandant to consider additional guidance or rulemaking in response to any deficiencies identified in the audit.

“Hopefully, other mariners will benefit from these safety improvements and be spared the tragic fate befallen the El Faro and its victims,” said Nelson.

Related: Read The Senate Bill

The legislation heads to the U.S. House of Representatives next where it is expected to pass and then head to President Donald Trump’s desk.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

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