Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy Rear Adm. John Nadeau told the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Subcommittee that there was “additional evidence of breakdowns in the safety framework” when the El Faro ship was lost at sea.
The cargo ship and its 33 crew members were lost in October 2015 during a hurricane east of the Bahamas. The report of the investigation concluded that the main reason for the casualties was the decision to navigate the El Faro too close to the path of the storm, an evaluation that the commandant of the Coast Guard agreed with. The two-year-long investigation also concluded that an ineffective safety management system within operating company TOTE Services Inc., American Bureau of Shipping’s failure to resolve safety deficiencies on vessels, and the Coast Guard’s failure to adequately oversee the third party were also all contributory factors in the disaster.
In his testimony, Nadeau offered his condolences to the famillies of the lost mariners, and emphasized the Coast Guard’s commitment to making improvements under the Alternate Compliance program. “Our findings confirm concerns raised in the [El Faro] investigation about the material condition of several other U.S. flag vessels,” he said.
Nadeau went on to explain that, like many countries, the U.S. relies on third parties more than ever before, and that the majority of the U.S.’s military sealift fleet use classification societies for many of their compliance activities. He emphasized the need for the Coast Guard to maintain a robust third-party oversight program and he stressed how he is directing changes in procedures and policies to this effect.
“At the end of the day, this is about the lives of the men and women who go to sea in support of the nation’s economic prosperity, in support of our nation’s military readiness, and in support of our national security,” Nadeau said. “The Coast Guard must, and will, restore the safety framework.”