MaritimeNews ® 07-Jun-2016 10:16

Image Courtesy: NTSB
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is planning to launch a mission to recover the voyage data recorder (VDR) belonging to the ill-fated cargo ship El Faro in early July.
“The trip to the accident site is expected to take three to four days, followed by five days on scene to recover the VDR,” NTSB said.
The recovery mission would include naval resources the USNS Apache and CURV-21, a remotely operated underwater vehicle, which was used in the search for the wreckage of the U.S.-flagged cargo ship El Faro in November.
Investigators from the NTSB and the U.S. Coast Guard, and engineers from the U.S. Navy and Phoenix International, the operator of CURV-21, will be aboard USNS Apache when it departs for the accident site near the Bahamas in early July.
NTSB said that after the VDR is recovered and USNS Apache returns to shore, the VDR will be brought to the NTSB laboratory here, where investigators will examine the VDR and download and analyze any information it may contain.
El Faro’s VDR was located on April 26 in about 15,000 feet of water, some 36 nautical miles northeast of Acklins and Crooked Islands, Bahamas.
The second round of hearings into the El Faro’s sinking, launched by USCG Marine Board of Investigation, was concluded on May 27. The hearings covering shipboard operations, cargo loading, lashing and stowage operations for the accident voyage and examined the vessel’s analysis of stability and weather conditions forcasted and encountered.
The hearings revealed, among other information, that the cargo ship received outdated weather forecasts before it encountered Hurricane Joaquin near the Bahamas on October 1, 2015.
Furthermore, the witnesses confirmed that the projected path for Hurricane Joaquin was out-of-date by at least ten hours when El Faro was already long on its voyage, therefore, the vessel’s crew did not have an accurate track of the storm.
Other hearings revealed that there were concerns over the ship’s stability, as former El Faro master, Capt. Jack Hern cited water integrity-issues, wear on hatches and boilers that often needed maintenance as key vulnerabilities of the ship.
The third hearing will examine additional elements of the investigation including crew witnesses, TOTE company officials and contents of the El Faro’s VDR if it can be recovered and analyzed.
The cargo ship sank on October 1, 2015, during Hurricane Joaquin while sailing from Florida to Puerto Rico, taking all 33 crewmembers with it.
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