Concerns flagged by Coast Guard force investigation into inspection system El Faro was under

by: Lorena Inclan, Action News Jax Updated:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The inspection protocol El Faro was under, which is known as the Alternate Compliance Program, or ACP, is again under the microscope at the Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation.

There are many ships still sailing today under ACP.

Since the sinking of El Faro, the Coast Guard said it has increased efforts to address more high-risk vessels. A targeted list of at-risk vessels now includes more than 10 ships.

Coast Guard Capt. David Flaherty, who oversees inspection standards, testified Tuesday that concerns raised by staff led to an investigation into the ACP as a whole.

We also learned Tuesday that El Faro’s sister ship, El Yunque, will be going out of service instead of being used for the Alaska trade.

Flaherty said “extreme wastage” was found in areas of El Yunque during a dry dock period but it’s not clear exactly why TOTE has decided to scrap the vessel.

That revelation is yet another reason the ACP is being heavily scrutinized during the Marine Board of Investigation hearings.


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The ACP, which was developed in 1996, is meant to limit duplication of vessel inspections by recognizing surveys done by classification societies, such as the American Bureau of Shipping.

The bureau does most of the inspections on U.S. flagged vessels, and did so for El Faro. Under ACP, American Bureau of Shipping surveyors work on behalf of the Coast Guard to conduct inspections aboard the ship and ensure compliance.

“In 2015, it was brought to my attention from my staff that they had discovered indications that there were some discrepancies with how the commercial vessel or the Alternate Compliance Program was being implemented,” said Flaherty.

Shortly after that, Flaherty said, he started an investigation.

Flaherty said in one instance, his team noticed that some surveyors had a different understanding as to how to implement the program.

“We started to develop a concern that the implementation, that the Alternate Compliance Program, wasn’t meeting with the expectations that were initially developed,” said Flaherty.

Flaherty also indicated that because there are more ship classification societies nowadays, it’s become a burden to maintain and update parts of the program.

Currently, there’s no ACP training program available. 

TOTE attorneys also questioned Flaherty, bringing up the prior testimony of other inspectors, who characterized TOTE vessels as being in good condition and said TOTE is good company.

At the conclusion of the Marine Board of Investigation hearings, both the National Transportation Safety Board and the Coast Guard will release findings and recommendations.

The hearing continues Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

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