• ITVI.USA
    13,754.510
    83.820
    0.6%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.920
    -0.140
    -0.6%
  • OTVI.USA
    13,721.420
    82.630
    0.6%
  • TLT.USA
    2.840
    0.040
    1.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.480
    -0.170
    -6.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.070
    -0.210
    -6.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.370
    -0.090
    -6.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    2.280
    -0.210
    -8.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.900
    -0.070
    -3.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    2.720
    -0.270
    -9%
  • WAIT.USA
    127.000
    0.000
    0%
  • ITVI.USA
    13,754.510
    83.820
    0.6%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.920
    -0.140
    -0.6%
  • OTVI.USA
    13,721.420
    82.630
    0.6%
  • TLT.USA
    2.840
    0.040
    1.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.480
    -0.170
    -6.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.070
    -0.210
    -6.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.370
    -0.090
    -6.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    2.280
    -0.210
    -8.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.900
    -0.070
    -3.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    2.720
    -0.270
    -9%
  • WAIT.USA
    127.000
    0.000
    0%
American ShipperShippingTrade and Compliance

El Faro investigators may return to scene of wreck in second effort to find ‘black box’

The National Surface Transportation Board found the bridge of the ill-fated TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico general cargo vessel a half mile away from the rest of the wreck after it was sheared off when the ship sank in Hurricane Joaquin.

   Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board may return to the wreck of El Faro, the general cargo ship that sank during Hurricane Joaquin on Oct. 1, in an attempt to locate the voyage data recorder or “black box” for further clues on what caused the catastrophe.
   The sinking of the TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico vessel, which claimed the lives of its 28 crew members and five additional seafarers on board to repair and remodel the El Faro, is considered the worst United States-flagged maritime disaster since 1983 sinking of the bulk carrier Marine Electric off the coast of Virginia.
   Tom Roth-Roffy, lead investigator for National Transportation Safety Board, told the Associated Press the NTSB would need to launch a second search of the wreckage 15,000 feet below the sea if it wants to find the data recorder, which would have recorded a range of audio and electronic data in the 12 hours leading up to the sinking of the vessel, including the captain’s final transmissions.
   The wire service reported NTSB is “still determining if and when such a search would occur.”
   NTSB also released several photographs and excerpts of video of the wreck Sunday night, at the same time the CBS News’s “60 Minutes” program ran a report about the incident.
   The 28 U.S. crewmen and five shipyard workers who were on the TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico ship are all presumed to have died in the sinking. NTSB says no bodies were found during the underwater search of the ship.
   The voyage data recorder was bolted to the top of the ship’s bridge. “60 Minutes” reported the top two decks of the ship’s house, including the bridge, had been sheared off and were found about a half mile away from the rest of the wreck, but the VDR was no longer attached.
   Meanwhile, an attorney representing two of the families of the seafarers who perished in the sinking of the El Faro filed a motion in December to deny TOTE Maritime exoneration or limitation of liability in the incident.
   TOTE and affiliated companies in early November filed a request in U.S. District Court in Florida to be exonerated from liability, or limit it to $15.3 million, in an attempt to take advantage of the Shipowners Limitation of Liability Act of 1851.
   The law was enacted to help U.S. shipowners compete with companies based in other countries such as Great Britain, and allows shipowners to seek exoneration from or limit their liability in the event of a maritime accident. Attorney Stephen Pajcic, however, told reporters the act is outdated and shouldn’t apply in the case of El Faro because “we know for sure that the ship owners knew exactly what the plan was going to be, where the ship was going, exactly where it was at all times, where the hurricane was and where it was at all times.”

Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.