Mission to Recover El Faro VDR

Mission to recover El Faro VDR from gcaptain

The Military Sealift Command’s fleet ocean tug USNS Apache was scheduled to launch from Virginia Beach, Virginia on Friday and arrive at the accident site around August 9. Along with the NTSB, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, and Phoenix International are joining the VDR recovery effort, using CURV-21, a deep ocean remotely operated underwater vehicle to retrieve the VDR and conduct additional wreckage documentation.

NTSB Press Release via Bryant’s Maritime Blog

The NTSB’s third mission to the wreckage of the El Faro is scheduled to launch Friday from Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The mission’s primary objective is to retrieve the sunken cargo ship’s voyage data recorder.

The Military Sealift Command’s fleet ocean tug USNS Apache is expected to arrive at the accident site around August 9. Along with the NTSB, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, and Phoenix International are joining the recovery effort, using CURV-21, a deep ocean remotely operated underwater vehicle to retrieve the VDR and conduct additional wreckage documentation.

“We’re hopeful that the information contained in the voyage data recorder will provide insights into the circumstances of the ship’s sinking,” said Brian Curtis, Acting Director of the NTSB Office of Marine Safety.

The El Faro, a U.S. flagged cargo ship, sank during Hurricane Joaquin Oct. 1, 2015. In October and November of 2015, the NTSB conducted an initial search mission to locate the vessel and conduct an initial survey of the debris field. The data collected during that mission was used by investigators to plot “high probability” search zones for the second mission in April, which resulted in the location of the mast and VDR. The wreckage is in approximately 15,000 feet of water, about 41 miles (36 nautical miles) northeast of Crooked Islands, Bahamas.

USNS Apache is expected to arrive at Mayport, Florida, between August 16 and August 20, following completion of the mission.

The cost for this mission is expected to be $500,000, bringing the total for the three missions to approximately $3 million.

NTSB media relations will issue updates as circumstances warrant.

From the Portland (Maine) Press Herald:

The mission to recover the El Faro’s voyage data recorder will be undertaken this week when a remotely operated underwater vehicle will try to retrieve the device from the ship’s wreckage, resting 3 miles below the surface of the ocean near the Bahamas.

Recovery of the data recorder from the sunken cargo vessel will be closely watched here in Maine because several El Faro crew members, including its captain, either lived in Maine or had ties to Maine Maritime Academy in Castine

Have a SAFE voyage and mission USNS Apache team / crew members. Good luck from all of us.

Looks like the vdr was recovered last night successfully!

Yup the news articles are starting to come in. [U][B]Congrats to everybody involved.[/B][/U]


El Faro voyage data recorder in fresh water on the USNS Apache (Photo: NTSB)

Now we all need to pray they can get useable data off of it. Particularly the voice recordings.

From the picture it looks like the VDR is in good condition.   I've heard cockpit recordings of airline crashes and I'm sure this will be just as hard to listen to.

[QUOTE=salt’n steel;188698]From the picture it looks like the VDR is in good condition. I’ve heard cockpit recordings of airline crashes and I’m sure this will be just as hard to listen to.[/QUOTE]

The phone calls recorded shore side were hard enough.

Even worse since it hits so close to home.

Statement from NTSB

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 Monday evening.

The recovery of the capsule caps a 10-month-long 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 recovery of the recorder has the potential to give our investigators greater insight into the incredible challenges that the El Faro crew faced,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart, “but it’s just one component of a very complex investigation. There is still a great deal of work to be done in order to understand how the many factors converged that led to the sinking and the tragic loss of 33 lives. I want to thank the dedicated professionals in the many organizations — especially the U.S. Navy, the Coast Guard, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the National Science Foundation and the University of Rhode Island — who worked with NTSB investigators and support staff over three missions in 10 months to make this successful recovery possible,” said Hart.

Photo caption: El Faro voyage data recorder in fresh water on the USNS Apache

(Photo caption: El Faro voyage data recorder in fresh water on the USNS Apache)

Military Sealift Command’s fleet ocean tug USNS Apache departed Virginia Beach, Virginia, Friday with personnel from the NTSB, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy and Phoenix International aboard. After arriving at the accident location on Monday morning, technicians maneuvered CURV-21, a deep ocean remotely operated underwater vehicle, down about 15,000 feet to the sea floor where the wreckage of El Faro rests.

Specialized tools were used to extricate the VDR capsule from the mast structure to which it was attached. The capsule was recovered to the deck of the ocean tug at about 10:30 pm Monday evening.

The voyage data recorder will be examined while at sea by NTSB investigators aboard the USNS Apache, to assess the condition of the device and to ensure proper preservation for readout and further examination ashore. The VDR will be transported to the NTSB’s laboratory here after the Apache returns from sea on or about Aug. 12, 2016. Once at the NTSB’s lab a team of specialists will audition the recording. It is not yet known how long it may take to review the data and audio information that may be captured on El Faro’s VDR. While the minimum design requirement for VDRs of this type is for 12 hours of recording, it may contain additional information – the review of which is a thorough and time consuming undertaking. NTSB will provide updates as investigators learn more about the condition and contents of the El Faro’s VDR.

While investigators examine the VDR, additional photo- and video-documentation of the El Faro wreckage and debris field will be completed today concluding NTSB’s activities at the site. No further missions to the accident site are planned unless warranted as the investigation continues.

Additional information about this investigation is available on the NTSB’s El Faro webpage.

Info on Simplified Voyage Data Recorder (S-VDR) from NTSB website

An S‐VDR is required aboard certain cargo ships engaged in international voyages. Inside this fixed capsule, a 12 hour duration of data is recorded. This data includes audio from microphones on the bridge, Very High Frequency (VHF) radio communications, images captured from an onboard radar every 15 seconds, and Automatic Identification System (AIS) traffic broadcasts data (if not possible to record radar). Lastly, vessel parametric data are recorded, which includes date, time, GPS position, speed, and heading. The fixed capsule is certified to 6,000 meter depth (about 20,000 feet). In the case of El Faro, the S‐VDR was mounted on the antenna mast support structure above the bridge of the vessel.

S-VDR vs VDR

How is a simplified VDR different from a VDR?
Simplified VDRs are targeted at the retrofit market (cargo ships built prior to 2002).
Simplified VDRs record bridge audio and basic parametric data, but are generally not required to record more extensive parameters such as engine, steering, alarm, or wind data.
[B][/B]

This section of the statement is of interest.

“The recovery of the recorder has the potential to give our investigators greater insight into the incredible challenges that the El Faro crew faced,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart, “but it’s just one component of a very complex investigation. There is still a great deal of work to be done in order to understand how the many factors converged that led to the sinking and the tragic loss of 33 lives

They seem to be saying that the data on the VDR is not going to unlock some great mystery but just add a part of the total picture.

It’s seems likely that the NTSB has more information than the public with regards to this investigation but perhaps more importantly they have the ability to analyze the information they have. For example they may run simulations based on the known parameters of the vessel and the weather conditions at the time. The investigators may have also done calculations on the cargo lashing based on the cargo manifest and the lashing setup on the El Yunque. A careful plot of the forecast of the positions of Joaquin as received by the El Faro would also add to the understanding of the full picture.

Don’t know how many here saw this simulation of the El Faroin 35 foot seas.

[QUOTE=Kennebec Captain;188789]This section of the statement is of interest.

They seem to be saying that the data on the VDR is not going to unlock some great mystery but just add a part of the total picture.

It’s seems likely that the NTSB has more information than the public with regards to this investigation but perhaps more importantly they have the ability to analyze the information they have. For example they may run simulations based on the known parameters of the vessel and the weather conditions at the time. The investigators may have also done calculations on the cargo lashing based on the cargo manifest and the lashing setup on the El Yunque. A careful plot of the forecast of the positions of Joaquin as received by the El Faro would also add to the understanding of the full picture.

Don’t know how many here saw this simulation of the El Faroin 35 foot seas.[/QUOTE]

Hadn’t see the simulation before. . . kinda loses something without a gimballed wheelhouse. . . made me thing of something. . .are there simulators WITH wheelhouses that also follow the motion of the screens, ala aircraft simulators?

[QUOTE=cmakin;188831]Hadn’t see the simulation before. . . kinda loses something without a gimballed wheelhouse. . . made me thing of something. . .are there simulators WITH wheelhouses that also follow the motion of the screens, ala aircraft simulators?[/QUOTE]
Yeah that was a pretty low budget simulation…

      • Updated - - -

[QUOTE=Dutchie;188690]The Eagle has landed! Job done, now we hope to get some results. That could take awhile, one or two months I read somewhere. We will have to wait and see…[/QUOTE]

I seem to have been a little bit too over enthusiastic about the time frame, the plot thickens… Food for thought, what is going on here? Not follow the money this time but the question is who benefits from this delay. Not the families that is for sure. They donot count in this matter, closure for there grieving is put on hold for up to three years. Nice.

[B]Sullivan said it could take up to three years before the NTSB releases the VDR’s recordings to El Faro families, because it could take that long for the organization to complete their investigation first as required.[/B]

Anywayz, you can read the full story here.

[QUOTE=Dutchie;188841]I seem to have been a little bit too over enthusiastic about the time frame, the plot thickens… Food for thought, what is going on here? Not follow the money this time but the question is who benefits from this delay. Not the families that is for sure. They donot count in this matter, closure for there grieving is put on hold for up to three years. Nice.

Anywayz, you can read the full story here.[/QUOTE]

There has been far more conspiracy theorizing about the El Faro hearing then is warranted by the known facts. In the case of release of the info from the VDR likely that is based on a legal requirements regarding the data.

As far as conspiracies, TOTE seems to be acting in it’s interests as expected, the Coast Guard is likely doing some bureaucratic ass covering, again as expected, the family’s interest likely vary according to if they’ve settled or not. As far as NTSB, I don’t know why they would be involved in some kind of cover up, it’s a strong claim to make and would require strong evidence.

[QUOTE=Kennebec Captain;188877]There has been far more conspiracy theorizing about the El Faro hearing then is warranted by the known facts. In the case of release of the info from the VDR likely that is based on a legal requirements regarding the data.

As far as conspiracies, TOTE seems to be acting in it’s interests as expected, the Coast Guard is likely doing some bureaucratic ass covering, again as expected, the family’s interest likely vary according to if they’ve settled or not. As far as NTSB, I don’t know why they would be involved in some kind of cover up, it’s a strong claim to make and would require strong evidence.[/QUOTE]

you will have to forgive me KC for fanning the flames of the conspiracy theories which you poopoo so much but but don’t statutes of liability happen to end after three years?

I’ve got the can of gasoline if anyone has a match?

If this investigation were a airliner crash we would be seeing transcripts of cockpit recordings within weeks. Compared to the mangled VDR’s recovered, the info and recordings off this unit shouldn’t be much challenge.

[QUOTE=salt’n steel;188879]If this investigation were a airliner crash we would be seeing transcripts of cockpit recordings within weeks. Compared to the mangled VDR’s recovered, the info and recordings off this unit shouldn’t be much challenge.[/QUOTE]

This is what the NTSB has said:

NTSB will provide updates as investigators learn more about the condition and contents of the El Faro’s VDR.

The VDR hasn’t even made it ashore yet, little too early to wonder what’s taking so long. I don’t know why they wouldn’t release the transcripts when they get them, they haven’t said they won’t,