Oct 12, 2015
El Faro, a container ship, sunk on October 1st with 33 workers on board, in the midst of Hurricane Joaquin. It was on route from Florida to Puerto Rico. The last message from the ship said the engine had failed, making it impossible to steer, and it was listing 15 degrees. When the ship went down, there were 140 mile per hour winds and 50 foot waves.
The ship’s captain was apprised of the developing storm, but family members who gathered at the seafarers’ union hall said the captain was under pressure to deliver the cargo on time to avoid financial penalties. Quartermaster Bruer said, “They were always hurrying.” And Captain William Doherty, a former commander of tankers and container ships said, “That ship was 40 years old. In spite of all that anybody tells you, this ship was on extended life support.”
El Faro was owned by the large shipping conglomerate Saltchuck Resources, a privately owned company with two billion dollars in assets. It is involved in all kinds of domestic and international shipping, the distribution of oil, interstate trucking and air cargo. El Faro was just one small piece of its empire.
The hurricane may have been the immediate cause of this tragedy, but for-profit shipping sank the ship.