El Faro VDR Recovery Mission Delayed

Hurricane Joaquin
Hurricane Joaquin

By MarEx 2016-06-29 19:06:59

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has delayed its mission to recover the El Faro voyage data recorder (VDR) until the first week of August.

The mission had been scheduled for early July, but the Board is still organizing resources for the expedition which is expected to last about two weeks.

The El Faro, a U.S. flagged cargo ship, sank during Hurricane Joaquin on October 1, 2015, and 33 lives were lost. The El Faro wreckage was positively identified on November 1, 2015. The VDR was then located on April 26 in about 15,000 feet (4,500 meters) of water near the Bahamas.

According to the Palm Beach Post, the U.S. National Hurricane Center is working to help prevent such maritime disasters such as the El Faro sinking. Center meteorologists met with the U.S. Coast Guard and industry representatives in May to discuss how the Center can ensure that the most timely forecasts are made available to those who need them.

There is normally a three-hour delay between when the Center gathers information and when it releases it, and U.S. Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation hearings have heard testimony indicating that the El Faro’s weather information provider was involved in delays in providing a forecast update. As a result, the El Faro didn’t get an accurate storm track on the morning it sailed, however wind and wave predictions were up-to-date.

Recovery of the VDR is hoped to provide information on events leading up to the loss of the vessel. It is expected to contain 12 hours of data including audio from microphones on the bridge, VHF radio communications, images captured from an onboard radar every 15 seconds and Automatic Identification System (AIS) traffic broadcasts data. Vessel parametric data are also recorded, including date, time, GPS position, speed and heading.

The date for a third and final U.S. Coast Guard hearing into the sinking of the El Faro is yet to be set pending further developments on the VDR recovery.