Investigations & Casualty Analysis

12/13/2016: Release of VDR transcripts, upcoming hearing – A note from the El Faro Marine Board of Investigation (MBI)

Written by Capt. Jason Neubauer, chief of the Coast Guard Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis

Today, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a transcript of the S.S. El Faro’s voyage data recorder (VDR), in addition to several other factual reports, to the docket for its investigation into the October 1, 2015, sinking of the vessel.

The transcript and factual reports provide information collected regarding this marine casualty, and we continue to work in partnership with NTSB as our investigations progress. In light of this release, we continue to seek additional information from the maritime community after examining the newly released VDR audio transcript and factual reports. If you have information to share with the MBI, please email the El Faro team at elfaro@uscg.mil.

Today, the Coast Guard also released the findings of the Research and Development Center’s (RDC) immersion suit test. The test was conducted to study immersion suit endurance after issues arose during the search for El Faro’s crew members. The test showed that tethered, but free-floating mannequins, in the same type of immersion suits El Faro carried, remained afloat in the water for a two-week period. Additional details can be obtained from the report on this matter.

To date, the Coast Guard has conducted two rounds of public hearings as part of our Marine Board of Investigation into the loss of El Faro, and a third hearing is scheduled for February 2017 in Jacksonville. This final hearing session will examine additional elements of the investigation, including but not limited to questions arising from the contents of the El Faro’s VDR, as well as additional witnesses such as former crewmembers, TOTE company officials, Coast Guard personnel and others. A follow-up media advisory will be sent out when the dates and venue for the third hearing session are finalized.

We have updated the website for the Coast Guard Investigations LiveStream channel, which you can view at https://livestream.com/USCGinvestigations/. Archived sessions from previous hearings are available for public viewing on the site. Live streaming and an archive of the third hearing session will also be available at this site. Transcripts of the hearings and additional information will continue to be made available via the U.S. Coast Guard Newsroom at http://www.uscgnews.com/go/doctype/4007/286370/.

This El Faro investigation is being conducted to determine as closely as possible the factors that contributed to the incident, and propose corrective actions in order to prevent those conditions from causing or contributing to future casualties.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.