Home » Merchant Marine » Navy Finds Lost U.S. Merchant Ship El Faro

Navy Finds Lost U.S. Merchant Ship El Faro

Undated photo of merchant ship SS El Faro. Marine Traffic Photo

Undated photo of merchant ship SS El Faro. Marine Traffic Photo

A Navy team sent to the Bahamas has found the missing U.S. merchant ship SS El Faro, officials have confirmed.

The embarked search team onboard USNS Apache (T-ATF-172) found the ship in 15,000 feet of water, mostly intact and upright on Saturday and positively confirmed the wreck was El Faro on Monday.

“The target identified by [sonar] is consistent with a 790-foot cargo ship, which from sonar images appears to be in an upright position and in one piece,” according to a Saturday statement from the National Transportation Safety Board.

Now the embarked team will work to recover the lost ship’s data recorder to learn more of what happened to El Faro— presumed to have sunk as a result of bad weather and high seas caused by Hurricane Joaquin.

The ship was believed to have gone down with all 33 hands — including 28 Americans — on Oct. 1 shortly after it made its last communication.

“Several ‘survival suits’ were spotted floating in the water, one of which contained the body,” according to a statement at the time from the Coast Guard reported via NPR after the Coast Guard called off its search on Oct. 7.
“In addition, an empty, heavily damaged lifeboat was found.”

An undated photo of the Powhatan class fleet ocean tug USNS Apache (T-ATF-172). US Navy Photo

An undated photo of the Powhatan class fleet ocean tug USNS Apache (T-ATF-172). US Navy Photo

At the request of the NTSB, the Navy had committed to about 13 days of searching for the ship using a combination of sonar and remotely operated underwater vehicles ROV — including the the Navy’s CURV 21 deep ocean salvage ROV. The service used the ROV to positively identify the ship, USNI News understands.

The sinking of El Faro has been called one of the worst U.S. merchant maritime disasters since the loss of SS Marine Electric in 1983 in which 31 of the 34 member crew were lost 30 miles off the coast of Virginia.

“Not since 1983 has an American flagged merchant ship gone to the bottom in such an ugly way,” merchant captain Allen Baker wrote last month in The Baltimore Sun.

Families of the lost have filed a lawsuit against ship owner TOTE Maritime, according to CNN.

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Categories: Merchant Marine, News & Analysis, Surface Forces, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy
Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.

  • Morduin00

    Congrats to the Navy on a successful mission.

  • Jim Valle

    Some interesting issues are indicated by the loss of El Faro. Launched in 1975 she was forty years old this year. That’s long in the tooth for an ocean going ship! She seems to have suffered at least two failures, a hull split and loss of her main engine power. Was that due to “old age”?. How is it that her offices failed to track the hurricane so incompetently that they left port when it was in the offing, set a course into its projected track and seemingly made no effort to evade it? Finally, her owners claim that El Faro was in excellent condition. What forty year old ship is in excellent condition? Do they have a survey to prove it? The NTSB is going to have its work cut out for on this one.

  • Rob C.

    That picture of El Faro of the ship didn’t look too flattering. The ship looks like keel bent from those pictures. Rest In Peace, I’m glad they found the ship. Give some peace of mind to the families.

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