Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation M-17-071
Details
Synopsis: On Thursday, October 1, 2015, the SS El Faro, a 40-year-old cargo ship owned by TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico and operated by TOTE Services, Inc., was on a regular route from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, when it foundered and sank in the Atlantic Ocean about 40 nautical miles northeast of Acklins and Crooked Island, Bahamas. The ship had sailed directly into the path of Hurricane Joaquin, carrying a crew of 33, including 5 Polish contract repair workers. All those aboard perished in the sinking. As part of its accident investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) led a joint effort with the US Navy, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the National Science Foundation to locate the ship’s wreckage and retrieve its voyage data recorder (VDR). The VDR was pulled from 15,250 feet below the ocean surface in August 2016 during the third undersea mission and yielded more than 26 hours of parametric data and audio files. The NTSB’s accident investigation identified the following safety issues: captain’s actions, use of noncurrent weather information, late decision to muster the crew, ineffective bridge resource management, inadequate company oversight, company’s safety management system, flooding in cargo holds, loss of propulsion, downflooding through ventilation closures, need for damage control plan, and lack of appropriate survival craft. The NTSB made safety recommendations to the US Coast Guard; the Federal Communications Commission; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the International Association of Classification Societies; the American Bureau of Shipping; Furuno Electric Company, Ltd.; and TOTE Services, Inc.
Recommendation: TO TOTE SERVICES, INC.: Institute a formal company process to provide independent weather routing, passage-planning assistance, and vessel position monitoring.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Marine
Location: 36 NM Northeast Crooked Island Bahamas, AO, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA16MM001
Accident Reports: Tropical Cyclone Information for Mariners Sinking of US Cargo Vessel SS El Faro Atlantic Ocean, Northeast of Acklins and Crooked Island, BahamasSinking of the US Cargo Vessel El Faro: Illustrated Digest
Report #: MAR-17-01
Accident Date: 10/1/2015
Issue Date: 2/7/2018
Date Closed: 3/11/2019
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: TOTE Services, Inc. (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: TOTE Services, Inc.
Date: 3/11/2019
Response: We note that you established new SMS procedures through OPS MEMO A 73 that allow your hurricane advisory team to convene to support and advise your vessel masters during cyclonic and other noncyclonic weather events. These procedures call for personnel at TOTE headquarters to monitor the real-time position of all TOTE-managed vessels. This is in addition to the assistance that is now available from the Foss Maritime Center, which is a 24/7 staffed information center. These actions satisfy Safety Recommendation M-17-71, which is classified CLOSED--ACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: TOTE Services, Inc.
To: NTSB
Date: 10/22/2018
Response: -From Philip H. Greene, Jr., President, TOTE Services, Inc.: As stated in our letter dated May 7, 2018, TOTE believes this Recommendation has been fully and appropriately addressed.

From: TOTE Services, Inc.
To: NTSB
Date: 5/7/2018
Response: -From Philip H. Greene, Jr., President, TOTE Services, Inc. and Timothy Nolan, President, TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico: This letter acknowledges the e-mail of February 7, 2018, in which the Executive Secretariat, Office of the Managing Director, National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) formally issued certain safety recommendations to TOTE Services, Inc. (“TOTE”). We have organized our responses below to correspond with the numbered safety recommendations to TOTE contained in the final report. Please note that all of the NTSB’s safety recommendations involve changes to vessel operations or capital improvements that exceed existing minimum standards set by law. Accordingly, as discussed further below, some recommendations, if adopted, may require capital improvements or other changes to vessels that are within the exclusive purview of the vessel owner, not the vessel operator. Accordingly, for vessels we manage that are not owned by one of our affiliated companies, we are contacting these external customers by letter to make them aware of these recommendations, so that they may consider these issues and initiate whatever changes they deem appropriate. Therefore, in many cases below, the response we provide only applies to the vessels that are owned by our affiliated companies. We try to make that distinction clear with respect to each recommendation. Additionally, please note that in our Supplemental Party Submission, submitted to the NTSB on January 11, 2018, we identified a number of factual errors that were stated on the record by certain staff at the NTSB’s Public Meeting. Our intent was for the public record to be clear, but many of the errors we raised were not corrected or otherwise addressed when the final NTSB report was published. In some cases below, we point out these errors, not to be argumentative, but to ensure implementation of the changes we are making to our safety procedures are put in their proper factual and operational context. TOTE Response: TOTE concurs with the intent of this recommendation. This recommendation is largely addressed through implementation of TOTE’s Hurricane Advisory Team and the creation of the Foss Maritime Center, as discussed above. This nautical operations support mechanism has been effective and has been regularly activated since its inception. With respect to weather routing services, such services are now provided to all TOTE-managed vessels regardless of route or service. In addition, the training described in the next Recommendation is being provided to vessel personnel. As discussed during the investigation, these services are primarily used for transoceanic voyages, but they have been made available to all vessels as a resource, even those on the shorter shuttle runs, including between Jacksonville and San Juan. There is no requirement that masters use or follow any weather routing guidance, as it is within the masters’ discretion to use these services as another resource. We believe Recommendation M-17-71 has been fully and appropriately addressed.

From: NTSB
To: TOTE Services, Inc.
Date: 2/7/2018
Response: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the United States and significant accidents in other modes of transportation—railroad, highway, marine, and pipeline. We determine the probable cause of the accidents and issue safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents. In addition, we carry out special studies concerning transportation safety and coordinate the resources of the federal government and other organizations to provide assistance to victims and their family members affected by major transportation disasters. On December 12, 2017, the NTSB adopted its report Sinking of US Cargo Vessel SS El Faro, Atlantic Ocean, Northeast of Acklins and Crooked Island, Bahamas, October 1, 2015, NTSB/MAR-17/01. The details of this accident investigation and the resulting safety recommendations may be found in the attached report, which can also be accessed at http://www.ntsb.gov. Among the safety recommendations are 10 issued to TOTE Services, Inc., which can be found on pages 253–254 of the report. The NTSB is vitally interested in these recommendations because they are designed to prevent accidents and save lives. We would appreciate a response within 90 days, detailing the actions you have taken or intend to take to implement these recommendations. When replying, please refer to the safety recommendations by number.