El Faro's captain was uncertain about future with TOTE

(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — El Faro Capt. Michael Davidson wrote a week before he died about feeling taken advantage of by his employer, TOTE Inc., and uncertain about his future with the company, The Florida Times-Union reported. Davidson, who was at the helm of the cargo ship on Oct. 1, 2015 when it sank in Hurricane Joaquin, wrote in an email that it did not appear he would be home before Dec. 3, and that it appeared there would be no one to relieve him. He wrote the company paid well, but he did not know how long the “good fortune” with continued work would last.

An investigator brought up the email on Thursday during questioning of a former TOTE crewing manager before the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation. The board concluded its third round of hearings about the loss of El Faro on Friday.

The former crewing manager, Melissa Clark, repeatedly expressed concerns about Davidson in the months leading up to the sinking. She wrote in an email about “dwindling confidence” in his leadership, and was among two managers who approached TOTE’s CEO to dissuade him from hiring Davidson for a post on a new Marlin-class, dual-fuel ship.

Philip Greene, a retired U.S. Navy admiral who is CEO and president of TOTE, said in his testimony a year ago that Davidson was “eminently qualified to be master of one of our ships” despite a critical email from Clark. “The content of the email in my assessment was overly emotional and I read it, I sat it aside and I moved on,” Greene said in his testimony.

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By Professional Mariner Staff