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April 18, 2016

US NTSB resumes search for voyage data recorder of cargo ship El Faro

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has resumed the search for the voyage data recorder (VDR) of TOTE Maritime's cargo ship, El Faro, which disappeared during Hurricane Joaquin on 1 October, 2015.

By Srijanee Chakraborthy

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has resumed the search for the voyage data recorder (VDR) of TOTE Maritime’s cargo ship, El Faro, which disappeared during Hurricane Joaquin on 1 October, 2015.

The search operation is aimed at recovering the sunken ship’s VDR and better documenting the wreckage in order to determine exactly how the ship sank.

The VDR is believed to contain voice data from the El Faro’s navigation bridge in the hours before the ship sank in more than 15,000ft of water.

"Sentry has the ability to operate at depths of nearly 20,000ft and is equipped with sonar, camera and other sensors."

The second search is being conducted in collaboration with the National Science Foundation and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The research vessel, called Atlantis, has departed from Charleston, South Carolina and will search the accident site for ten days before returning to Woods Hole, Massachusetts, around 5 May.

Atlantis will carry an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), Sentry, to look for the VDR.

Besides the information contained in the VDR, investigators expect to obtain digital high-resolution imagery of the hull and wreckage of the El Faro.

Sentry has the ability to operate at depths of nearly 20,000ft and is equipped with sonar, camera and other sensors.

Last November, the US Navy’s salvage team discovered the 790ft-long cargo ship, oriented in an upright position with the stern buried in approximately 30ft of sediment, during the fifth of 13 planned search line surveys conducted with the help of USNS Apache bearing Orion, a side-scanning sonar system.

Documentation of the port and starboard sides of the vessel revealed that the navigation bridge and the deck below had separated from the cargo ship the vessel.

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