OCTOBER 9, 2015—Over the next several weeks, the U.S. Navy will begin searching for the 790 ft containership El Faro, which is believed to have sunk near the Crooked Islands in the Bahamas in Hurricane Joaquin. The ship, which is believed to lie on the seabed in 15,000 feet water, lost contact with owner Tote Maritime on October 1. At the time, there were 28 crew and five Polish nationals aboard.
In a press briefing yesterday, National Transportation Safety Board Vice-Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr said that the Navy would use specialized equipment, including side scan sonar and ROVs to locate the ship and its Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) or black box. The black box could contain critical information in determining the last moments of the ship.
Dinh-Zarr said NTSB investigators interviewed the master of the El Yunque, the sister ship to the El Faro. He provided a “wealth information” on the company and both vessels, according to Dinh-Zarr. The master had also served recently as the first mate aboard the El Faro.
Investigators also interviewed the DPA (designated person ashore), the last person who spoke with the master of El Faro. The DPA characterized the master’s behavior as “calm,” and confirmed earlier details that the El Faro had lost propulsion, taken on water, and was listing at 15 degrees.
Dinh-Zarr said NTSB investigators are interviewing more Tote personnel, the port engineer, relief crew engineers, and the Jacksonville terminal manager who oversees the individuals who loaded the vessel. A group of weather experts are also collecting weather data related to the incident. Drawing on assets from other agencies. Owner Tote Maritime is also making the El Yunque available to NTSB investigators today to examine the ship’s equipment and document the location of the VDR.