As people in Jacksonville, Florida and along the east coast know, there was a lot of discussion about Hurricane Joaquin last week and the various paths it might take. Some meteorologists had Hurricane Joaquin partially contacting the east coast of Florida while others predicted that it would pass well east of Florida and cause a tremendous amount of rainfall in the South Carolina area. In any case, just about every meteorologist expected Hurricane Joaquin to move north as it past Florida to the east, which is what it did. The only question was how close it would get to the Florida coast.
While Jacksonville was not victimized by Hurricane Joaquin, it did apparently cause a serious tragedy to a ship and crew that left Jacksonville for Puerto Rico on Tuesday of last week. The ship, which carried a crew of 33 people and almost 700 containers, was lost at sea on Thursday, when Hurricane Joaquin was to the east of Florida. Officials lost contact with personnel on El Faro when it was near the Bahamas, on the way to Puerto Rico. It was estimated that El Faro would have been traveling through 20 to 30 foot waves as it made its way to Puerto Rico during the hurricane. As of the date of this post, the ship has not been found although some debris from the ship has been recovered as part of the search and rescue mission.
The ship is owned by TOTE Maritime, which indicated that most of the people on El Faro are from the United States, while a few of them are from Poland. Many of the Americans on El Faro have some connection to Jacksonville, the city from which El Faro departed.
An obvious question is why a container ship would be traveling when it was well publicized that a hurricane, or potentially a tropical storm, was in the area. Hurricane Joaquin was a very popular subject in the media for almost two weeks, certainly during the week El Faro departed, and its path was fairly well predicted. Undoubtedly, El Faro’s owner will contend that the ship and crew were equipped to handle Joaquin. However, since that does not appear to be the case and there is the potential for significant loss of life and property, the company will likely come under serious scrutiny as to why the decision was made to send the ship under these circumstances. The potential liability for that decision could be massive.