Team Searches for Vanished U.S. - Flagged Vessel
Joint team searches for El Faro
Working around the clock, an ad hoc civilian-military team goes to great lengths, and depths to find the sunken merchant vessel El Faro.
To locate the vessel investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and U.S. Coast Guard were supported by a team of civilian mariners from the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC), diving and salvage experts from Naval Sea Systems Command's (NAVSEA) Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV), and contractors from Phoenix International Inc.
The joint team lived and worked together aboard the U.S. Navy fleet ocean tug USNS Apache (T-ATF 172) for more than three weeks to accomplish this urgent mission. Their task was to find El Faro, and, if possible, retrieve the ship's voyage data recorder - commonly known as a black box. The information gleaned from the mission will help investigators put together the story of exactly what led to the tragedy.
"The crews worked together great," said Charles Rodriguez, the civilian master of USNS Apache. "This isn't the first time we've had military and contractors onboard. We have done deployments with units before and this allows us to integrate quickly."
Phoenix International, SUPSALV, and NTSB were responsible for pinpointing the El Faro's resting location in an effort to determine why it sunk. To do this, Apache was outfitted with top of the line sonar and remote search equipment that would allow the crew to document the terrain more than 15,000 feet below the ocean's surface.
"The equipment outfitted on Apache is government-owned and contractor-operated," said Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Neverosky, a salvage expert with NAVSEA's SUPSALV. "This means that we own the equipment, but the contractors are experienced in all of the operations of the machinery."
SUPSALV is responsible for Navy ocean engineering, including salvage, in-water ship repair, towing, diving safety and equipment maintenance and procurement.