Vessel Safety and the Sinking of El Faro

Cargo Ship Sinks Off Bahamas with Dozens of Crewmembers Aboard

Earlier this month, news agencies reported that Hurricane Joaquin was moving farther out to sea, posing less of a threat to people living along the eastern seaboard. However, before the storm moved out to sea, a U.S. cargo ship, the El Faro, and its workers sank after being trapped in the hurricane’s path. According to a recent article in Reuters, the ship reported a “hull breach,” noting that “a hatch had blown open” prior to its sinking in the Bahamas. Reports also indicate that the ship “lost its main propulsion unit and that engineers could not get it restarted.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been investigating the accident that resulted in the deaths of 33 American crewmembers. The article in Reuters described the loss of the ship and its crew as “the worse cargo shipping disaster involving a U.S.-flagged vessel since 1983.”

The crew sent electronic distress signals, which the U.S. Coast Guard received. However, the Coast Guard was unable to make direct contact with the ship. The NTSB is not yet certain of the precise cause of the ship’s sinking. The only precise information they have is that the cargo ship had been undergoing engine room work.

The NTSB has sent a vessel to look for the El Faro’s voyage data recorder. This device works a lot like an airplane’s black box, and it could provide officials with information about how and why the cargo ship sank.

Cargo Vessel Safety and Marine Accidents

Marine accidents are not particularly common when it comes to transportation-related vessels. According to a report list from the NTSB, most marine accidents in the last year have not resulted in a high number of fatalities. Many of the reports filed by the NTSB refer to passenger vessels rather than cargo ships. Are cargo ships generally safe for crewmembers? What safety standards help to ensure that marine cargo workers do not suffer serious and fatal injuries?

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) emphasizes the importance of safety aboard cargo vessels. In a fact sheet concerning work-related injuries, it cites the following as some of the frequent causes of injuries in this industry:

  • Improperly inspected loading equipment and gear;
  • Improper loads (too much weight);
  • Deck loads that extend beyond rails;
  • Use of inadequate rigging materials;
  • Defective loading materials and other equipment;
  • Falls; and
  • Inadequate or improper safety gear.

If you or someone you love suffered a serious or fatal work-related injury, you may be eligible to seek financial compensation. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine your rights.

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