“The Clock Is Ticking”: Inside the Worst U.S. Maritime Disaster in Decades


Good Point to always remember. Channel fever has caused a good bit of disaster.
Until your tied to the Quay, you are in fact “at sea” and liable to all it’s dangers.


How many holds did El Faro have? If the list had been equalized and the ship headed into the wind, couldn’t she have remained afloat with one flooded hold?


Because this is nothing compared to what we get in Alaska, you pussies.


This is going to get good.

Need gifs on this forum, a no she didn’t gif would be so perfect for this situation.




I’m assuming (and hoping) you’re being sarcastic.


I think he’s referring to Davison’s attitude.


According to the NTSB report the El Faro could have remained afloat with one hold flooded in calm seas with no wind.

From NTSB:

.1.5.4. Even though EL FARO met applicable intact and damage stability standards as
loaded for the accident voyage, the vessel could not have survived uncontrolled flooding of even a single cargo hold given the extreme wind and sea conditions encountered in Hurricane Joaquin.


Regarding the statement made by the NTSB it is so that the old approach, under which the El Faro probably fell, says that the ship should be able to survive the breach (flooding) of one compartment with a certain floodable length.

This is a virtual ship, not the El Faro!

The compartment should not be flooded above the margin line. However in bad weather a rather slow flooding compartment would produce a large free surface effect which could mean the end of the game.

Margin line. A line drawn at least 76mm below the upper surface of the bulkhead deck at side, (SOLAS). The margin line is a line defining the highest permissible location on the side of the vessel of any damage waterplane in the final condition of sinkage, trim and heel.

These days Solas requires the probalistic and sometimes the deterministic method for calculating the damage stability which are quite different approaches. I am not sure whether these were required for the old timer El Faro.


In 1992, EL FARO underwent a conversion at the Atlantic Marine Shipyard in Mobile,
Alabama. This conversion included the addition of a 90-foot mid-body section between frames
134 and 135 that added a cargo hold (designated Hold 2A), a new spar deck to carry additional trailered containers, and 1,830 long tons of iron ore fixed ballast in one pair of double bottom tanks. Due to the lengthening and increase in cargo carrying capacity, the Coast Guard determined the mid-body insert to be a major conversion, which required the vessel to be brought up to current standards to the extent considered reasonable and practicable by the local Coast Guard OCMI. As part of the major conversion determination, the Coast Guard approved a request to have ABS conduct plan review and inspection on behalf of the Coast Guard. 58

Additionally, since the vessel was issued international certificates for foreign voyages and was
required to comply with SOLAS requirements, it was also directed that all modifications to the
vessel comply with the most recent SOLAS amendments (SOLAS 1974, as amended). This
included meeting new IMO probabilistic damage stability standards, among other SOLAS

EL FARO completed another conversion in 2006 to carry lift-on/lift-off (LO/LO) container
stacks on the main deck to facilitate service between East Coast ports and Puerto Rico. The conversion, which also took place at Atlantic Marine Shipyard, included removal of the spar
deck, structural reinforcement of the main deck, addition of container support foundations and
structures, and an additional 4,875 long tons of iron ore fixed ballast in the remaining two
additional pairs of double bottom ballast tanks.

The Coast Guard Marine Safety Center (MSC) did not designate the 2005-2006 conversion
as a major conversion. According to available documentation regarding the determination, the
Coast Guard originally designated the proposed project as a major conversion in 2002. 59 The
Vice President for Marine Operations at TOTEM Ocean Trailer Express subsequently sent a
series of requests for reconsideration to the MSC explaining that the NORTHERN LIGHTS (EL
FARO) intended only to increase its container cargo volume, referred to as forty-foot equivalent units (FEU) and twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU). In a reconsideration request letter dated March 22, 2004, VP for Marine Operations stated:

**A vessel’s cargo carrying capacity is defined by its load line and stability characteristics,**
not by an FEU or TEU number count. Further, I know of no international or U.S. safety
or environmental protection requirements that are based on TEU/FEU count…Only the
load line is the measure of capacity.

The MSC overturned its original determination in a November 8, 2004 letter that confirmed
EL FARO’s proposed conversion to a LO/LO configuration would not be treated as a major
conversion. Although earlier MSC letters had voiced concerns about the potential for an
increase to EL FARO’s cargo carrying capacity, the Coast Guard’s final non-major conversion
determination letter did not include any restrictions related to increasing cargo capacity during
the conversion. After the 2006 conversion, EL FARO’s total cargo loading capacity changed
and the vessel’s maximum allowable draft was increased by over 2-feet. The change also
reduced the vessel’s freeboard which lowered hull openings by the same distance. The MSC’s
decision to not classify the conversion as a major modification meant EL FARO was not
required to conform to applicable 2006 U.S. and international standards (e.g., CFR, ABS SVR,
and SOLAS) in conjunction with the conversion work.


and thus once again the USCG rolls over the the companies who demand profits over safety but it is not the executives who are the ones less safe as a result but the crews of their ships and once again we see how toothless the unions are simply accepting the contracts to man these less seaworthy ships without making so much as a squeak about the fact that their members might die as a result. The level of corruption knows no bounds in our industry and all the players are guilty including the mariners who just eat the shit sandwich they are handed! The only hope would be for a master to realize that he is commanding a vessel which isn’t able to withstand a damage case in a violent storm and to steer well clear of it but our man here failed to do even that. I say today as I have said throughout this sad spectacle that Davidson was afraid of management taking retribution against him for even so much as slowing down and delaying arrival in San Juan in order to ensure the safety of him, his people, his cargo and his ship. Since there is no solidarity between masters, he know they would be quite able to replace him once he was fired. There always is someone willing to climb over the back of a dead man in order to further his career. THIS IS WHY I LOATHE THE INDUSTRY AND HAVE FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS! IT IS A MISERABLE FUCKING CESSPOOL OF PLACING PROFITS OVER WHAT IS RIGHT!



There are three major strands to this loss:

Errors made by the captain and crew

Failure of regulatory agencies to insure a seaworthy ship

Company failure to provide proper guidance.


captain yes but the crew? should the mate’s have overridden the master? do you want your mate’s to override you? should they have DEMANDED the master come to the bridge and take some action to avoid the close approach? I wished they had but who else was empowered to take any preventative action? Were the mate’s actually empowered under the SMS to do that? Same as the master, there is the fear factor of losing one’s job and potentially livelihood to take any such action.

I still say that Davidson was not acting as a rogue player acting alone with a lack of guidance from TOTE but rather following a desire on their part that he not be late in arriving in San Juan. I say the company was not guilty of not guiding him but rather pressuring him (in some unknown fashion) to take a rash and potentially perilous risk. He was a man driven to prove something to someone despite any pleadings by TOTE that they are innocent of any coercion on their part. Blood is on their hands in this loss. They could see what he was planning to do (through SatC tracking) and did nothing to make him pull the throttle back!


AMO… and yet you act surprised by this @c.captain?


Nobody would have gotten fired for closing and dogging the scuttle.


I attended the last hearing in Jacksonville where I met @Frank_Pusatere.

The main reason for wanting to attend this hearing was to listen to what the DPA had to say or if he would amend what was said in earlier hearings. To say I was pissed that NOT one of the board asked him about his prior testimony where he talked with the USCG and seemed to be almost joking about them anchoring! After the transcripts were made public, we all know how serious it was when the last call to the DPA was made but when shortly afterwards he (DPA) spoke with the CG he sure didn’t sound alarmed or even worried. I was so hoping that someone would have questioned him but no one did. At least he (DPA) got a nice promotion out of it!


From what I’ve seen the DPA at TOTE did the same thing DPA’s do elsewhere, see to the paperwork side of the SMS and not interfere with the operation side of things.


On that run there are going to be a few runs a year that where the schedule is going to be effected by weather. It doesn’t make sense that it’s in the company’s interests to take big risks for slight gains a few times a year.

It seems far more likely that Davidson believed it was in his interests not to appear to have made a weather routing error.

If he was “driven” to prove something that doesn’t match the fact he apparently didn’t want to leave his cabin to check the weather. Seems more like hubris on his part.

The error the company made was not keeping sufficient track of what the captains were doing.


El Faro and El Junkie both steamed right into the center of the same hurricane. A day or so apart. So it’s seems like failure to avoid hurricanes to keep a schedule is a more wide spread problem than just Davidson.


I agree, perhaps the standard was what the other captains were doing, instead of some reasonable guidelines. The captains seemed to believe those ships excelled in heavy weather when in fact they were not seaworthy.

In the case of the El Faro aside from taking on excess risk Davidson made the technical error of not closely monitoring Joaquin.

Risk and the sea...what is an acceptable level, (if there is one)?