El Faro VDR Recovery Mission Postponed

An image of the El Faro's navigation bridge at a depth of 15,000 feet off Crooked Island in the Bahamas. Credit: NTSB
An image of the El Faro’s navigation bridge at a depth of 15,000 feet off Crooked Island in the Bahamas. Credit: NTSB

The National Transportation Safety Board has postponed the launch of the mission to recover the voyage data recorder from the cargo ship El Faro as it awaits the resources needed for the mission to become available.

The NTSB said in early June that the mission to recover the VDR would launch in early July, but it has now been postponed to the first week of August and is expected to last about two weeks.

The VDR was located on April 26 in about 15,000 feet of water during the NTSB’s second search for the device near the Bahamas. It was found attached to a steel mast and mount previously attached the El Faro’s navigation bridge, which had separated from the rest of the ship when it sank October 1, 2015 during Hurricane Joaquin.

The VDR is located approximately 450 meters from the wreck of the El Faro.

Resources involved in the recovery will include the USNS Apache and CURV-21, a remotely operated underwater vehicle. CURV-21 is the same equipment used to first locate the El Faro wreckage in November. 2015. Investigators from the NTSB and the U.S. Coast Guard, and engineers from the U.S. Navy and Phoenix International, the operator of CURV-21, will also be aboard USNS Apache when it departs from Little Creek, Virginia in August.

The nearly nine months that have elapsed since the incident have led many to question why the recovery of the VDR is taking so long considering the ongoing investigations by both the NTSB and the USCG are dependent on the critical information that may or may not be contained or recoverable on the VDR.