The US Coast Guard says that the missing cargo ship El Faro sank
after sailing into the path of Hurricane Joaquin in the Bahamas.
The Coast Guard believes the missing cargo ship sank in the Atlantic Ocean with 33 people aboard.
El Faro—a 790-foot cargo ship whose name means “lighthouse”—has apparently sunk in the Atlantic Ocean, the U.S. Coast Guard believes.
This animation of images captured from September 29 to October 1 from NOAA's GOES-East satellite shows Hurricane Joaquin become a major hurricane in the Bahamas.
Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project
Rescuers have been searching for the container ship, which was in the path of Hurricane Joaquin, since the crew last made contact Thursday morning, saying El Faro was listing but the situation was manageable.
The vessel was carrying 33 people—28 Americans and five Poles—and while searchers have found debris they believe came from the ship, they haven’t found the vessel itself or any survivors. One body has been found.
El Faro's ill-fated journey (Reuters)
Last position received 24.2747° / -74.94522°
Bahamas chart on the GeoGarage platform (WLP nautical map)
While nautical disasters remain a fact of life—everything from missing sailboats to deadly catastrophes like the Costa Concordia’s sinking or recent ferry disasters in Asia—it is exceptionally rare for a large ship like El Faro to disappear.
How rare? An analysis of vessels greater than 100 gross tons by the insurance giant Allianz found that in the past 10 years, from 2005 to 2014, only six ships were reported as “missing/overdue”—or, in other words, lost. Three were in 2005.
It’s far too early to know what went wrong with El Faro. It’s not uncommon for cargo ships to lose containers in heavy seas, but sinking is.
Allianz lists several risk factors for ships: overreliance on electronic navigation; understaffed or undertrained crews; and structural weakness.
That encourages some captains to stay at sea.
Steering-way is necessary to keep the bow into the wind and waves.