American Bureau of Shipping chief engineer lays out responsibilities during Day 4 of MBI

by: Lorena Inclan, Action News Jax Updated:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation entered day four in the third round of hearings into the sinking of El Faro with a clear focus of defining the roles of entities involved.

The attorney for the American Bureau of Shipping, Jerry White, started off the day by questioning a chief engineer with the American Bureau of Shipping, or ABS.

Tom Gruber is the chief engineer of statutes for ABS and acts as the liaison between the Coast Guard and ABS when there are statutory manners.

Gruber said ABS provides oversight to ensure compliance when it comes to vessel surveys but it does not make the codes.

Some of the testimony also contradicted previous testimony by Capt. David Flaherty regarding the cargo loading software program called “CargoMax,” which was used by El Faro.

“In our discussions with Capt. Flaherty yesterday, he indicated that CargoMax or computer programs are not reviewed or oversighted by the United States Coast Guard. Was that correct statement?” White asked.

“That was an incorrect statement,” Gruber said.



Gruber referred to two letters he received from the Marine Safety Center that prove otherwise.

However, Gruber did point to areas where regulations aren’t always up to date, including the inclining test which determines a ship’s loading capacity and it’s stability.

“Would using updated technology during the inclining test reduce the amount of uncertainty?” said MBI Chair Capt. Jason Neubauer.

“It could, yes,” Gruber said.

Gruber said he was confident in the job ABS does in order to ensure compliance.

“Is there any doubt as to the validity of the approvals for the inclining for El Faro for 1993 and 2006?” White asked.

“No, I stand by the approvals,” Gruber replied.

When it comes to the Trim and Stability Book, Gruber said they approve the book, but they don’t train the ship’s captain and crew on how to use it. He said that responsibility fails on the crew itself and the ship’s owner.

A surveyor with ABS will be called to testify during this Marine Board of Investigation.

The hearing reconvenes at 9 a.m. Friday at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

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