NTSB set to begin first phase of examining El Faro’s VDR

The US National Transportation Board (NTSB) on Monday was set to begin examination of the voyage data recorder (VDR) from sunken cargo ship El Faro.

The VDR should contain valuable navigation data and audio recordings that could shed more light on how the vessel got caught in Hurricane Joaquin off the Bahamas last October 1, going down with the loss of all 33 crew members.

It will probably be considerable time before any of the examination’s results are released, though.

The VDR was finally recovered last Tuesday when a remote controlled submersible using special tools detached it from El Faro’s mast 15,000 feet down on the ocean floor.

After the initial tragic sinking it had taken a month for US authorities to pinpoint the wreck, broken into two major parts, a further five months to locate the VDR and then four more months before last week’s retrieval.

The NTSB said the examination will be in two parts: first a general characterization to assess the quantity and quality of data; then a more detailed analysis involving experts from interested parties such as NTSB, US Coast Guard (USCG), American Bureau of Shipping and the ship owners Tote Services.

This work will include compiling transcripts from the audio data.

The USCG’s Marine Board of Investigation has already held two rounds of hearings into the sinking but will likely hold off starting the third until the VDR information is available.


Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.
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