[Updated] Life Ring From El Faro Found


Published Oct 4, 2015 2:21 AM by The Maritime Executive

A life ring has been found from the cargo ship El Faro, which went missing on Thursday after sailing through Hurricane Joaquin in the Bahamas, the U.S. Coast Guard said on Twitter on Saturday.

A search-and-rescue crew found the life ring in waters to the northeast of Crooked Island in the Bahamas, about 75 miles (120 km) from the ship's last known position before it went missing on Thursday morning, the Coast Guard said. A spokesman said crews will resume the search in the same area at sunrise.

"Because we found a life ring, the assumption can be made that we are searching in the right area," said Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios.

"When we commence searching tomorrow morning at sunrise, hopefully we'll be able to find something else. Every little bit helps," he added.

This is the first trace of the El Faro, a 735-foot (224-meter) cargo ship with 33 crew on board that went missing on Thursday morning after it was overcome by heavy weather from Joaquin.

The vessel, with 28 U.S. citizens and five Polish nationals on board, was headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville, Florida when it reported losing propulsion and that it was listing and taking on water, the Coast Guard said.

There had been no further communications after a distress call received at about 7:30 am (1130 GMT) Thursday, the Coast Guard said. Search and rescue efforts continued Saturday, after covering 850 square nautical miles on Friday, but turned up no sign of the U.S.-flagged ship.

"We are very surprised that we lost all communication with the ship," Mike Hanson, a spokesman for El Faro's owner, Tote Maritime Puerto Rico, said on Saturday.

"The ship was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time," he added, saying Joaquin was just a tropical storm when El Faro set out from Jacksonville but later intensified rapidly into a major hurricane.

The hurricane headed toward Bermuda on Saturday after hammering the Bahamas. At 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT), Joaquin, which strengthened significantly early Saturday, had maximum sustained winds of 150 miles (240 km) per hour, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The storm, a potentially catastrophic Category 4 on a scale of 1 to 5, was about 500 miles (805 km) southwest of Bermuda, the Miami-based NHC said.

Haiti Rescue

Two Amver ships assisted the U.S. Coast Guard rescue 12 seafarers who abandoned their sinking 212-foot cargo ship beset by heavy weather from Hurricane Joaquin on Thursday evening after their ship began taking on water 51 miles north of Haiti.

A Bolivian-flagged cargo ship activated their Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) after it began taking on water. "We've lost engines, are listing 30 degrees to port and had two cargo booms break loose...", the crew reported in an email to rescue authorities.

Coast Guard authorities in Miami launched a rescue helicopter and diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Northland along with querying the Amver system and diverting the timber carrier Falcon Arrow and the Ro-Ro Cronus Leader.

The two Amver ships arrived on scene and battled 30-knot winds and waves greater than 15 feet to provide a lee for the 12 crewmen in a life raft while the helicopter began hoisting the survivors and transporting them to shore. All 12 mariners were safely rescued and transported by helicopter to the Bahamas.

The Cronus Leader, managed by NYK Lines, enrolled in Amver on November 30, 2008 and earned six Amver participation awards. The Falcon Arrow, managed by GearBulk, enrolled in Amver on January 1, 1987 and has earned 25 Amver participation awards.