The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced on Monday that a mission to recover the voyage data recorder (VDR) of the sunken cargo vessel El Faro will set off in July.
The El Faro, en route from Florida to Puerto Rico, was caught in Hurricane Joaquin and sank off the Bahamas on October 1, 2015, with the loss of all 33 crew members.
It’s wreckage, broken into two main sections, was located 15,000 feet down on November 1 but that discovery did not yield the VDR.
A further mission in April this year did successfully pinpoint the VDR but lacked the equipment to retrieve the device.
The VDR should contain valuable navigation data and other information useful to investigators.
So far two of three planned US Coast Guard (USCG) Marine Board of Investigation hearings – each lasting two weeks – have been held in Jacksonville, Florida, the city from which El Faro departed on its final journey.
The hope is that the VDR can be recovered and its contents analyzed in time for the third set of hearings, which have yet to have a date set.
NTSB has been collaborating with the US Navy Supervisor of Salvage to devise a recovery plan. The mission will involve navy vessel USNS Apache and the remotely operated vehicle CURV-21, both of which were involved in locating the VDR in April.
Personnel on the mission will be from NTSB, USCG, US Navy and Phoenix International, the marine services company that operates the CURV-21.
NTSB expects three or four days for the journey to the site off the Bahamas and then five days for the recovery operation.