The National Transportation Safety Board Friday
and photos of the retrieval and preliminary inspection of El Faro’s voyage data recorder.
The voyage data recorder from El Faro, a US flagged cargo ship that sank during Hurricane
Joaquin in October 2015, was successfully recovered from the ocean floor late
The recovery of the capsule caps a 10-month-long, multi-agency effort to
retrieve the recorder, which was designed to record navigational data and
communications between crewmembers on the ship’s bridge. Investigators hope the
recorder will reveal information about the final hours of El Faro’s voyage and
the circumstances leading up to the sinking.
The third mission to the El Faro began Aug. 5, 2016, and the vessel arrived on
scene August 8, and later that same evening the El Faro’s voyage data recorder
was safely brought aboard the USNS Apache by the Navy’s CURV-21 remotely operated vehicle, operated by Phoenix
The VDR was placed in fresh water to help prevent corrosion of the electronic
Coast Guard and NTSB personnel
decided to disassemble and visually examine the VDR while at sea to gain a
better understanding of the condition of the memory unit and to identify what
steps are needed to recover the data. All of the components of the El Faro’s
VDR were transported to the NTSB’s laboratory in Washington, DC, Aug. 12, 2016.
The examination of the data that may be contained on the El Faro’s data
recorder is set to begin Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. The examination, called an
audition, will happen in two rounds. The initial round only includes the NTSB
Office of Marine Safety Acting Director, the NTSB Research and Engineering
Director, the NTSB’s Investigator in Charge, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Chief
of Investigations and Casualty Analysis. This audition is of the raw audio
without any clean up or filtering and helps to determine the future scope of
From the first audition, the NTSB Research and Engineering team will produce a
general characterization of the data that details the number of hours, quality
of data, quality of audio, presence of GPS, radar, and any other data captured.
The NTSB’s next step is to convene the VDR investigative group. Much like the
other groups within the investigation, this group may consist of a member of
each of the parties - NTSB, U.S. Coast Guard, American Bureau of Shipping and
TOTE Services. These parties are requested to participate as subject matter
experts because they can provide expertise in analyzing the VDR information and
creating a transcript.
The NTSB forbids lawyers, company executives, or media representatives from
participating as members of the VDR investigative group. Group members must
sign a strict non-disclosure agreement that prohibits them from releasing any
information from the audition to their organizations or to anyone outside of
the VDR group. Because the VDR audition happens within the NTSB investigation party
process, it is not considered a public disclosure.
The NTSB is prohibited by federal
law from publicly releasing any
audio captured from a VDR. Even within the agency, and the team working on the
investigation, there are strict limitations on who is able to listen to the
The VDR group will work together to create a transcript of any audio recovered
from the VDR. The transcript will be used to inform the future activities
related to the El Faro investigation, and any part of the transcript that is
considered relevant to the investigation will be released in the public docket.
The NTSB will not publically release the audio at any time.
To view or download video of Friday's media briefing go to: https://youtu.be/_U4Uq5fYXzw
To view or download photos of the VDR recovery
To view or download video of the VDR recovery go to: