The U.S. Coast Guard has found a body and an empty, heavily damaged lifeboat in their search for the El Faro, which is now assumed to have sunk off the Bahamas as a result of the towering seas and howling winds of Hurricane Joaquin. The rescue efforts are now focused on the search for survivors.
The 735-foot cargo ship departed Jacksonville, FL on Tuesday, September 29, bound for San Juan, Puerto Rico; on board were 33 crewmen, including 28 Americans and 5 Polish nationals. The ship’s cargo included 391 containers, resulting in a lot of topside height susceptible to the winds and waves produced by Hurricane Joaquin. On Thursday, October 1, the crew of the El Faro reported losing propulsion, listing and taking on water after sailing into the path of Hurricane Joaquin. This ship had not been heard from since its distress call on Thursday morning. On Sunday, the Coast Guard spotted two large debris fields about 60 miles apart littered with items identified as coming from the vessel.
This is the third maritime accident involving a cargo ship sinking in 2015. On January 2, 2015, the Bulk Jupiter sank approximately 150 nautical miles off the coast of Vietnam; only one of the 19 crew members survived. The 10-year old, 623-foot long bulk-carrier was transporting 46,400 metric tons of bauxite from Malaysia to China and cargo liquefaction is believed to be the cause. Similarly, on or about January 2, 2015, the 272 foot cargo ship, Cemfjord, capsized amid severe weather conditions in the Pentland Firth, north of Scotland. On January 3rd, the upturned hull of the vessel was spotted by a passing ferry and by January 4th the ship had sunk entirely. The search for the 8 crew members of the Cemfjord was unsuccessful.