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October 2015 sinking of the cargo ship EL FARO in the Atlantic Ocean
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Event Summary

Board Meeting : October 2015 sinking of the cargo ship EL FARO in the Atlantic Ocean
NTSB Boardroom and Conference Center
12/12/2017 9:00 AM

​The National Transportation Safety Board plans to meet Dec. 12, 2017, in Washington to determine the probable cause of the October 2015 sinking of the cargo ship El Faro in the Atlantic Ocean.

In addition to determining the probable cause of the sinking and any factors that may have contributed to the accident, the Board is expected to vote on recommendations to address safety issues uncovered during the investigation.

The meeting is scheduled to be held in the NTSB Board Room and Conference Center, 429 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, D.C., beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET Dec. 12.  The board meeting is open to the public and media and will be webcast live at

View photos on the NTSB Flickr album "Loss of Container Ship EL FARO"


The 790-foot vessel set sail from Jacksonville, Florida, on a voyage to San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept. 29, 2015, and sank about 34 hours later near the eye of Hurricane Joaquin.  All 33 crewmembers aboard the ship perished in the accident.

The NTSB launched an investigation as soon as the sinking was confirmed and with assistance from the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, the wreckage and debris field was located Oct. 31, 2015, more than 15,000 feet under the surface of the sea.

The investigation, that to date has cost $5.6 million and amassed 30,500 hours of investigative work, has produced more than 70 findings and more than 50 proposed recommendations, which will be presented to the board during the meeting.

The major safety issues associated with this accident include:

  • The Captain’s actions
  • Currency of weather information
  • Bridge team management
  • Company oversight
  • Damage control plans
  • Survival craft suitability

The sheer volume of information that needs to be reviewed during the board meeting has necessitated minor modifications to the flow of the board meeting. Unlike other board meetings where the managing director reads all the findings and recommendations following investigative staff presentations, during the El Faro board meeting the investigative staff will present their findings and recommendations during their presentations.  Probable cause will still be read by the managing director.

The agenda (subject to change) for the board meeting is as follows:

  • Chairman’s opening remarks
  • Opening Statement
  • Accident Overview
  • Engineering Factors
  • Flooding and Damage Control
  • Damage Control Stability
  • Survival Factors
  • Board Member questions with investigative staff
  • Lunch
  • Electronic Data
  • Meteorology
  • Company Oversight and Bridge Team Management
  • Captain’s Decision Making
  • Board Member questions with investigative staff
  • Board Member deliberation on findings
  • Probable Cause
  • Board Member deliberation on probable cause
  • Board Member deliberation on safety recommendations
  • Chairman’s closing remarks


Opening Statement - Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt

Recovery of El Faro's Voyage Data Recorder - Brian Curtis, Director, Office of Marine Safety

Accident Overview Sinking of Cargo Vessel El Faro - Brian Young, Investigator-in-Charge

Sinking of US Cargo Vessel SS El Faro - animation on NTSB YouTube Channel

Engineering Factors - Brian Young, Investigator-in-Charge

  • Vessel History
  • Major conversion
  • Inspections
  • Exclusions
  • Loss of propulsion

 Flooding of Cargo Holds - Eric Stolzenberg, Naval Architecture Group Chairman

El Faro simulation at 0330 hours - simulation on NTSB YouTube Channel

Damage Control and Stability Information - Michael J. Kucharski, Nautical Group Chairman

Survival Factors - R. Jon Furukawa, Survival Factors Group Chairman

Electronic Data and Audio - Sean Payne, Electronic Data and Audio Group Chairman

Onboard Weather Information Weather Reporting from Vessels - Mike Richards, Meteorology Group Chairman

Human Performance Factors - Carrie Bell, Human Factors Group Chairman

Captain's Decision-making and Actions - Michael J. Kucharski, Nautical Group Chairman

Closing Statement - Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt




NTSB public events are also streamed live via webcast. Webcasts are archived for a period of three months from the time of the meeting. Webcast archives are generally available by the end of the event day for public Meetings, and by the end of the next day for Technical conferences.

If you wish to obtain a copy of NTSB meetings, please contact the NTSB Records Management Division at (202) 314-6551 or 800-877-6799. You may also request this information from the NTSB web site or write the following: National Transportation Safety Board, Records Management Division (CIO-40), 490 L'Enfant Plaza, SW,Washington, DC 20594. View archived video of meetings (Webcasts are archived for a period of three months from the time of the meeting.)



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