The El Faro sank Oct. 1, 2015 near the Bahamas after sailing into the path of Hurricane Joaquin en route from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico, claiming the lives of all 33 crew members on board.
Naval architect Jeff Stettler with the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Center said in presenting the analysis to the MBI that the El Faro crew likely would not have been able to right the vessel once it began taking on water due to the way in which cargo was stowed. The analysis into the likely factors contributing to the ship sinking was requested by Capt. Jason Neubauer, chairman of the Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation conducting the hearing.
Stettler said audio recovered from the ship’s voyage data recorder (VDR) indicated there was more than one source of flooding on the El Faro, meaning the vessel had little chance for survival once it encountered the category 4 hurricane.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in December added a full transcript of the 26 hours of VDR audio recordings to its public investigation docket for the El Faro incident after retrieving the “black box” on Aug. 8. The VDR also included weather and navigational data leading up to the ill-fated vessel’s final hours.
The MBI, which is conducting its own separate investigation into the casualty, has held two evidentiary hearings so far in Jacksonville, and a transcript of the first session is available on the USCG’s website.
The purpose of the MBI investigation is to determine the cause of the incident, evaluate whether evidence suggests any misconduct or negligence contributing to the loss, and create safety recommendations for the industry in an attempt to prevent future incidents. The current hearings are scheduled to continue through the end of next week.