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The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has launched an investigation into TOTE Maritime’s missing cargo ship, El Faro.

The 790ft-long vessel, with a maximum speed limit up to 22k, was enroute from Jacksonville, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and has been missing since Hurricane Joaquin hit the Bahamas last week.

The ship departed on 29 September with the vessel’s officers and crew monitoring the tropical storm Joaquin which later turned into a hurricane consequently interrupting communications with El Faro.

The last known position of the ship was about 35 miles northeast of Crooked Island implying that the vessel must have sunk in the deep seas.

After a search operation covering over 172,000 square nautical miles, that employed one Navy P-8 Poseidon, three Coast Guard cutters, three tugboats and two Coast Guard helicopters, the US Coast Guard concluded that the ship sank near the Bahamas.

The investigation by the NTSB team will run alongside the US Coast Guard’s search and rescue efforts to find the missing crew of 33 members.

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TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico president Tim Nolan said: “TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico will be fully cooperating with the NTSB and Coast Guard as they conduct their federal investigations.

“TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico will be fully cooperating with the NTSB and Coast Guard as they conduct their federal investigations.”

“In addition, TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico plans to hire an independent third party maritime firm to conduct a safety assessment, which will be made public once completed.

“We wish to thank all those who are assisting us, providing support and praying for all involved.”

The investigation will be led by the NTSB’s Tom Roth-Roffy, reported Reuters.

The 1974-built underwent inspections conducted by the American Bureau of Shipping as well as the US Coast Guard in February and March this year.