Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions
Obliviously Sailing Into Danger
By Donald A. Moskowitz
October 23, 2015
As a former naval officer who was an officer of the deck underway, navigator, and meteorology officer, and on track for ship command, I am appalled by the decision of the Captain of the El Faro container ship to head into a ferocious storm at sea.
The Captain departed Jacksonville, FL on September 29, 2015 on a southeasterly course for San Juan, PR. This course took the ship on a track near the Bahama Islands and straight into the storm. At the time of sailing the storm was designated a tropical storm with winds of around 45 or 50 knots and seas running about 20 or 25 feet. Soon after the ship left port the storm intensified to hurricane strength, and the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning, which the El Faro should have received, forecasting winds of 125 knots and seas of 40 to 50 feet.
Apparently, the ship lost propulsion, which I assume occurred within the hurricane due to the pounding of the ship and probable flooding. The ship would then be in the trough of the waves, and with a top heavy load of containers, it could have rolled over and sank.
The shipping company had a responsibility to ensure the ship’s Captain was aware of the potential danger. If the shipping company provided any coercion or threatened the Captain if he refused to go to sea, the owners of the shipping company could have criminal liability for the sinking of the ship. In any case, the Captain, who was hired by the shipping company; and owners of the vessel, are responsible for the safety of the ship and crew.
Donald A. Moskowitz
Former AG2 and LT, U.S. Navy
Received October 22, 2015
- Published October 23, 2015
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