‘El Faro’ VDR mission planned: NTSB

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has set out plans for its mission to the recover voyage data recorder (VDR) from the sunken cargo ship, ‘El Faro’.

The VDR was located on April 26, 2016 in about 4,500 metres of water near the Bahamas.

The NTSB investigators will use the US Navy’s ocean tug ‘Apache’ which measures 69 metres in length and was launched in 1981. The ‘CURV-21’ remotely operated underwater vehicle will also be used to assist the mission.

Investigators from the NTSB and the US Coast Guard, and engineers from the US Navy and Phoenix International, the operator of ‘CURV-21’, will be aboard USNS ‘Apache’ when it departs in early July for the accident site near the Bahamas.

Investigators collaborated with scientists and deep-water recovery experts in May to determine how the VDR could be recovered given its proximity to nearby obstacles. The NTSB then brought in the US Navy Supervisor of Salvage to assist in the recovery effort.

The trip to the accident site is expected to take three to four days, followed by five days on scene to recover the VDR.

The ‘El Faro’ sank during Hurricane Joaquin on October 1, 2015. The ship’s wreckage was identified on November 1, 2015, during the NTSB’s initial mission to locate the wreckage. The VDR however had detached from the main site.

The NTSB announced on February 11, 2016, that it would launch a second search mission to locate the VDR and document the wreckage and debris field.

Shortly after the VDR was located, the NTSB announced that another mission to recover the VDR would be launched.

After the VDR is recovered, it will be brought to a NTSB laboratory where investigators will examine the VDR and download and analyse any information it may contain.