update...:Coast Guard: ‘El Faro’ Likely Sank in Hurricane
– One Body Spotted, Heavily Damaged Lifeboat Found
MV El Faro. Photo
MV El Faro. Photo
: MarineTraffic.com/Capt. William Hoey
The U.S. Coast Guard said Monday that the American cargo ship El Faro likely sank after sailing into the path of Hurricane
Joaquin on Thursday.
The Coast Guard has also confirmed that search crews had spotted a body in a survival suit and an empty, heavily damaged lifeboat – both believed to be from the missing ship.
The Coast Guard told gCaptain that a rescue
swimmer entered the water
and confirmed that the person in the survival suit was deceased but, due to conditions and the ongoing active search for survivors, recovery of the body was not possible. The lifeboat was also not recovered, but markings on the boat indicated that it was from El Faro.
An active search for El Faro’s 33 crew members continued off Crooked Island in the Bahamas
on Monday after already covering 70,000 square nautical miles since communication was lost
with the ship and its crew. The search is no longer focussed on locating the ship.
Communication with the 790-foot roll-on/roll-off containership was lost
Thursday morning (Oct. 1) after El Faro’s Master reported via satellite
notification received at 7:20 EST that the vessel was beset by Hurricane Joaquin while en route
to San Juan
, Puerto Rico
, from Jacksonville
. The notification said that the ship had lost propulsion
and had taken on water
, but the issue was contained and being managed by the crew. The notification added that the ship had a 15 degree list.
The vessel departed Jacksonville
bound for San Juan
on September 29th with 391 containers, 294 trailers and cars. At the time of El Faro’s departure, the vessel’s officers and crew were monitoring what was then Tropical Storm Joaquin.
Hurricane Joaquin is pictured off the east coast
of the United States in this handout photo provided by NOAA, taken October 1, 2015. Search-and-rescue teams on Sunday located debris appearing to belong to the cargo ship El Faro, which went missing in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin with 33 mostly American crew members aboard more than three days ago, the U.S. Coast Guard and the ship's owner said.
El Faro is owned and operated by TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico
, a division of TOTE Maritime. The sailing was authorized by TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico. The crew are qualified members of the Seaman’s International Union and the American Maritime Officers (SIU and AMO), TOTE said.
A of Sunday night, the search for the El Faro and its 33 crewmembers – comprised of 28 Americans and 5 Polish nationals – covered 70,000 nautical square miles. On Saturday, a life ring was recovered in the search area and confirmed to be from the El Faro. Later on Sunday, search crews found a debris field covering 225 nautical miles that consisted of life jackets, life rings, containers and an oil
sheen, although the debris had not been confirmed from the El Faro as of Sunday night but was said to be consistent with the missing ship.
A fact sheet provided by TOTE said the El Faro was equipped with two lifeboats, one of each side of the ship. The boats are open-top type (vs enclosed) and each certified to carry 43 people. One is propelled by manual power and the other by a small diesel engine
. The ship also carries five life rafts that normally need to be manually launched.
has hampered search efforts off Bahamas
since Thursday, when Hurricane Joaquin, centered directly over the search area, grew to a dangerous Category 4 storm with winds in the search area reported to be 140 miles per hour and sea conditions of 20 to 40-feet. Joaquin strengthened a bit Saturday as it moved slowly northeast towards Bermuda
, but as of Sunday the storm was downgraded to a Category 2 storm with winds of 110 miles per hour.
Coast Guard assets involved in the search since Thursday have included two HC-130 Hercules airplanes, the cutters Northland, Sexton and Resolute, and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter. The search has also involved the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy
and several tugboats contracted by El Faro‘s owner, TOTE Maritime.
El Faro was built in 1975 and was updated in 2006. The ship is one of two TOTE vessels sailing the Jones Act U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico trade route
. TOTE Maritime also has an Alaskan division, TOTE Maritime Alaska
, which operates two Orca-class ships sailing between Tacoma, Washington
and Anchorage, Alaska
. El Faro, formerly Northern Lights
, was originally built for the Alaskan trade
and served the trade route for a number of years.
TOTE says El Faro is a well maintained vessel that is classed by ABS and regularly inspected by class and port state, and has regularly been updated throughout its life.
“It is a sturdily built vessel in good condition, and meets all standards and certifications regardless of its age,” TOTE Maritime said on its website.