The National Transportation Safety Board’s third mission to the wreckage of the sunken containership El Faro is scheduled to launch Friday from Virginia Beach, Va.
The mission’s primary objective is to retrieve the voyage data recorder from TOTE Services‘ ill-fated 790’ ro/ro containership.
The El Faro was lost in Hurricane Joaquin with all 33 crewmembers on Oct. 1. In two missions since the sinking the NTSB has been able to identify two wreck sites — the bulk of the wreckage lies separate from the ship’s navigation bridge, which detached when the El Faro went down. The VDR was found in a third location. The El Faro rests in about 15,000’ feet of water about 41 miles northeast of Crooked Island, Bahamas.
The U.S. Navy’s 226’x42’x15” fleet tug Apache along with the remotely operated underwater vehicle CURV-21 are expected to arrive at the wreck site around Aug. 9. The U.S. Coast Guard and Phoenix International also will be involved with the VDR recovery effort and additional wreckage documentation. Both the Apache and CURV-21 were used to locate the El Faro wreckage during the NTSB’s first mission in November.
“We’re hopeful that the information contained in the voyage data recorder will provide insights into the circumstances of the ship’s sinking,” said Brian Curtis, Acting Director of the NTSB Office of Marine Safety.
The Apache is expected to arrive at Mayport, Fla., between Aug. 16 and Aug. 20, following completion of the mission.
The cost for this mission is expected to be $500,000, bringing the total for the three missions to approximately $3 million.
A Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation has already convened twice for hearings to investigate the sinking. The agency is considering a third hearing in the fall of 2016 to analyze information from the VDR if it can be recovered.