(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — The cargo ship El Faro was unable to handle multiple sources of flooding and was vulnerable to the water moving inside its hull when it encountered Hurricane Joaquin, according to a preliminary analysis released Monday during the third round of Coast Guard board hearings into the tragedy, The Florida Times-Union reported.
In presenting the analysis, naval architect Jeff Stettler with the Coast Guard Marine Safety Center (MSC) said El Faro operated with little flexibility to improve its stability at sea because of how it was loaded. He discussed a computer model and analysis of the ship’s stability and answered questions from federal investigators and attorneys for several parties, including shipowner TOTE. Stettler said that based on recorded conversations on the ship in its final hours, there was more than one source of flooding on El Faro. Water continued to rise even after a hatch was closed, he said.
Stettler said the “plausible sequence” of the sinking was: ship compartment No. 3 flooding; another compartment begins flooding through vent openings; the ship loses stability and partially capsizes with part of the deck awash; containers break lose from the deck; continued flooding through the vent openings; ship sinks; and ship returns to upright because of fixed ballast.