We want to discuss the term “unseaworthy” today. It is an important concept, and one that can allow those with legal standing to file an admiralty and maritime claim against those who may have been negligent in letting a boat or ship go out to sea. The case that is relevant in this regard is the sinking of the El Faro.

The El Faro was a large freighter ship that was built in 1974. It was functional and in operation until late 2015, when it went out on a voyage. 33 people were on board the El Faro, as well as hundreds of shipping containers. A day after the ship left, the El Faro was lost at sea as it approached the eyewall of a hurricane. The ship lost propulsion and sank.

The El Faro wasn’t found until a month later. Former El Faro crew members remarked that the ship should not have been out on the sea.

Now, the concept of unseaworthiness is a simple one, in a vacuum. This concept sets forth the standard that a ship owner must make sure their vessel is safe and able to go out on the water — in other words, the ship owner must make sure their vessel is “seaworthy.”

Someone could claim that a ship is unseaworthy, and they may provide evidence that shows why the ship was unseaworthy. In the case of the El Faro, claimants in a lawsuit didn’t explain. They simply provided a reason for unseaworthiness — the loss of propulsion. A judge determined that the El Faro wasn’t unseaworthy on these grounds since the ship did not sink in calm waters and because the unseaworthiness doesn’t automatically apply when a ship sinks.