• DATVF.ATLPHL
    1.813
    0.062
    3.5%
  • DATVF.CHIATL
    2.046
    0.005
    0.2%
  • DATVF.DALLAX
    0.945
    0.017
    1.8%
  • DATVF.LAXDAL
    1.416
    -0.043
    -2.9%
  • DATVF.SEALAX
    1.012
    0.028
    2.8%
  • DATVF.PHLCHI
    1.069
    -0.041
    -3.7%
  • DATVF.LAXSEA
    2.092
    -0.063
    -2.9%
  • DATVF.VEU
    1.643
    0.009
    0.6%
  • DATVF.VNU
    1.459
    -0.007
    -0.5%
  • DATVF.VSU
    1.181
    -0.013
    -1.1%
  • DATVF.VWU
    1.552
    -0.017
    -1.1%
  • ITVI.USA
    9,381.460
    -12.550
    -0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    7.570
    0.030
    0.4%
  • OTVI.USA
    9,365.450
    -10.110
    -0.1%
  • TLT.USA
    2.760
    0.030
    1.1%
  • WAIT.USA
    156.000
    -2.000
    -1.3%
  • DATVF.ATLPHL
    1.813
    0.062
    3.5%
  • DATVF.CHIATL
    2.046
    0.005
    0.2%
  • DATVF.DALLAX
    0.945
    0.017
    1.8%
  • DATVF.LAXDAL
    1.416
    -0.043
    -2.9%
  • DATVF.SEALAX
    1.012
    0.028
    2.8%
  • DATVF.PHLCHI
    1.069
    -0.041
    -3.7%
  • DATVF.LAXSEA
    2.092
    -0.063
    -2.9%
  • DATVF.VEU
    1.643
    0.009
    0.6%
  • DATVF.VNU
    1.459
    -0.007
    -0.5%
  • DATVF.VSU
    1.181
    -0.013
    -1.1%
  • DATVF.VWU
    1.552
    -0.017
    -1.1%
  • ITVI.USA
    9,381.460
    -12.550
    -0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    7.570
    0.030
    0.4%
  • OTVI.USA
    9,365.450
    -10.110
    -0.1%
  • TLT.USA
    2.760
    0.030
    1.1%
  • WAIT.USA
    156.000
    -2.000
    -1.3%
American ShipperShippingTrade and Compliance

TOTE hit with second lawsuit over El Faro sinking

Meanwhile, a Navy tugboat is en route to the last known location of the ill-fated cargo vessel near Crooked Island, Bahamas carrying equipment to search for the sunken remains of the El Faro, including the voyage data recorder.

   A second lawsuit was filed Monday against TOTE Maritime, the owners of the cargo ship El Faro, which is believed to have sunk after sailing from Jacksonville, Fla. into Hurricane Joaquin on Oct. 1.
   Meanwhile, a Navy tugboat, which will search for the wreckage of the ship, is in transit to its last known location near Crooked Island, Bahamas with specialized undersea equipment.
   The family of Jeremie Riehm, the third mate on the El Faro, filed a lawsuit against TOTE Maritime and related companies in the Circuit Court for Duval County, FL, alleging that the company’s “negligence in maintaining and/or operating and or managing El Faro, as well as failure to provide a seaworthy vessel,” were the direct cause of Riehm’s death.
   No specific amount of money is asked for in the complaint, filed on behalf of Riehm’s widow and two children, which makes claims for pre-death pain and suffering by Riehm and negligence causing his death under the Jones Act, and for wrongful death under the Death on the High Seas Act.
   A claim was filed by the family of another crew member, Lonnie Jordan, last week. The attorney filing that lawsuit said he would ask for $100 million.
   The latest lawsuit alleges that Michael Davidson, the captain of El Faro sent an email to TOTE at 10 a.m. on September 30, two hours after the National Weather Service upgraded Joaquin from a tropical storm to a hurricane, “indicating that he understood the weather conditions in his intended path and suggesting that he had a plan to try outrun the approaching hurricane.”
   Davidson, the suit alleges, “still north of the Bahamas and hundreds of miles from the approaching storm, had at least three safe alternatives: slow down to assess the weather; turn around and head away from the storm; or change course and head towards Florida. Instead, the El Faro continued strait towards the intensifying hurricane.”
   At 5 p.m. on Sept. 30, “the El Faro continued past ‘Hole in the Wall,’ a gap in the Bahamas archipelago, another escape route, which would have allowed the ship to travel away from the hurricane. Sailing at approximately 20 knots, near the top speed of the 40-year-old ship, Captain Davidson took the shorter route east of the Bahamas towards the hurricane rather than the longer route closer to Florida that would have avoided the storm.
   “Instead of delaying the voyage until it was safe or taking a longer more expensive trip around the storm which would have used more fuel and resulted in a late delivery, the course of action and/or approved by the Defendants was to try and outrun the storm by sending the antiquated cargo ship into extreme weather.”
   The lawsuit says as the ship approached the eye of the strengthening storm it slowed — from 20 knots at 9:09 p.m on Sept. 30 to 17 knots at 2:09 a.m. on Oct. 1 to 10.7 knots at 3:56 a.m.
   At approximately 7:15 a.m. on Oct. 1, “the El Faro sent out a distress signal saying that it had lost propulsion, was taking on water, and that the ship was listing 15 degrees, but that the situation was still ‘manageable.’”
   At the time of the distress signal, the ship “was taking on water from a hatch that had opened up while the crew was attempting to pump out the water,” according to the suit.
   Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said Monday he expects an update on the tragedy from the NTSB to be released today.
   Speaking on the floor of the Senate, he said the ship was equipped with “an old lifeboat, an open lifeboat” and voiced many of the same questions puzzling families of the crew who perished when the ship sank.
   “Why didn’t the captain and the crew know that the hurricane had become a hurricane that was announced by the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center 3 hours before they left the Port of Jacksonville?” Nelson asked. “What caused the captain to think he could sail, and sail in the direction of an oncoming hurricane, and that he would not get into its effects? Why did the engines cut off so that he lost power?”
   Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy dispatched one of its ocean tugboats, USNS Apache, from Norfolk, Va. Monday to begin searching for wreckage from the missing U.S.-flagged El Faro.
   “The initial search area is 100 square miles, and water depth is estimated to be 15,000 feet across the expected search area. Transit to this search area is expected to take four-to-five days due to weather,” the Navy said.
   The tug “is equipped with several pieces of underwater search equipment, including a voyage data recorder locator, side-scan sonar and an underwater remote operated vehicle. The Navy’s mission will be to first locate the ship and, if possible, to retrieve the voyage data recorder – commonly known as a black box.”
   The Coast Guard also said on Twitter Thursday that it had issued a certificate of inspection to Isla Bella, first of two LNG-powered container ships that TOTE had built at the San Diego shipyard of General Dynamics’ National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. to enter the Puerto Rico trade as replacements for El Faro and her sister ship El Yunque.

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Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.
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