El Faro Hearings on Hold for NTSB’s VDR Search

The first phase of US Coast Guard’s probe into the sinking of the cargo ship El Faro and the loss of 33 crew members concluded on Friday, Reuters reports.

After hearing witnesses and the captain’s final calls to the TOTE Services, the investigators will now wait for the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to conduct another expedition in April, to see if crucial evidence would be recovered from the wreck. The search will focus on locating the vessel’s Voyage Data Recorder (VDR).

During the USCG’s Marine Board of Investigation, which lasted for ten days, it was revealed that the 40-year-old vessel was to be included on the US Coast Guard’s targeting list, but it sank before the list was released. The list is composed of ten percent of vessels that need severer inspections due to vessel age, expired documents or other problems.

Furthermore, the Global Services Manager of Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine, John Fletcher, told the panel that the vessel could have had an issue with its VDR as its ping alert may not have been functional even at the time of the sinking.

However, another witness, El Faro’s former chief engineer James Robinson, said that, although the vessel had a number of mechanical issues, it was overall safe for its journey.

The USCG plans to launch a second round of hearings on the disaster by early summer, or later, if the authorities manage to find the VDR.

World Maritime News Staff