Investigation starts on sunken El Faro

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is launching a ‘Go Team’ to Jacksonville to start an investigation into the loss of the ro-ro cargo ship El Faro, which was last heard from on 1 October.

The vessel, which was enroute from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico was lost in a storm in the Atlantic Ocean.

“Obviously this is a huge challenge,” said Bella Dinh-Zarr, vice chairman of NTSB. “We’ll look at the voyage data recorder. It’s important to try to find that. We’ll be looking at any objects that may be perishable. We’ll be interviewing anyone involved. The purpose is to find out what happened.”

“We will be looking at marine logs, any electronic data, that will factor into the investigation so we know the course the ship took. We leave no stone unturned in our investigation and analysis,” Dinh-Zarr said.

TOTE Maritime, owner of the El Faro believed to have sunk, said the ship suffered an engine failure, leaving it hamstrung in the path of Hurriane Joaquin.Map

Phil Greene, a TOTE executive, pointed out that the El Faro had no history of engine failure, and the 1975-built vessel was modernised in 1992 and 2006. Company records show it underwent its last annual coast guard inspection in March this year.

On Monday, the US Coast Guard (USCG) announced that it believed the ship has sunk and one deceased person in a survival suit was found on Sunday. The ship was carrying 33 people.

A heavily damaged life boat with markings consistent with those on board the El Faro was also located. Additional items discovered included a partially submerged life raft, life jackets, life rings, cargo containers and an oil sheen.

Meanwhile, the USCG said its team is continuing to search for possible survivors. A total of 172,257 square nautical miles have been searched in the vicinity of the ship’s last known position.

Posted 7 October 2015

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