Senate Passes El Faro Maritime Safety Improvements

September 26, 2018

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation tonight to address maritime safety issues raised by the sinking of the El Faro cargo ship on Oct. 1, 2015.

The bill’s passage comes just days ahead of the three-year anniversary of the tragedy.

The legislation would place into law many of the recommendations laid out by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the U.S. Coast Guard in their final accident reports.

“The families of the El Faro crew deserve much of the credit for getting many of these potentially lifesaving measures through Congress,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who cosponsored the bill in the Senate.  “Hopefully, other mariners will benefit from these safety improvements and be spared the tragic fate befallen the El Faro and it’s victims.”

The bill’s maritime safety provisions require, among other things:

  • Freight vessels be outfitted with distress signaling and locating technology, float-free voyage data recorders with an emergency position indicating radio beacon and high water alarm sensors;
  • The Coast Guard to establish an anonymous safety alert pilot program, allowing crew to communicate urgent safety concerns directly with the Coast Guard;
  • Vessels receive timely and detailed weather forecasts;
  • A review of Coast Guard policies regarding ventilators, openings, fire dampers, stability standards and lifesaving equipment, such as survival suits and life jackets;  
  • A review of Coast Guard policies and procedures for documenting major conversions of vessels; 
  • Improved training programs for Coast Guard personnel to conduct comprehensive and targeted oversight of all third-party organizations that act on behalf of the Coast Guard; and, 
  • An audit of safety management systems to ensure the safety of ships at sea and directs the Coast Guard commandant to consider additional guidance or rulemaking in response to any deficiencies identified in the audit. 

The legislation now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives where it’s expected to pass easily and be sent to the president’s desk in the coming days.

Click here to read the El Faro-related maritime safety improvement measures located in Title 2 of the legislation.