Coast Guard searching for TOTE containership caught in Hurricane Joaquin


The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(MIAMI) — Coast Guard search-and-rescue crews are searching for a containership with 33 crewmembers aboard reported to be caught in Hurricane Joaquin near Crooked Island, Bahamas.

El Faro, a 735-foot ro-ro cargo ship, was en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville, Fla. At approximately 7:30 a.m. Thursday, watch standers at the Coast Guard Atlantic Area command center in Portsmouth, Va., received an Inmarsat satellite notification stating El Faro was beset by Hurricane Joaquin, had lost propulsion and had a 15-degree list. The crew reported the ship had previously taken on water, but that all flooding had been contained.

Watch standers at the Coast Guard 7th District Command Center in Miami launched an HC-130 air crew out of Clearwater, Fla., to search for El Faro. At this time Coast Guard watch standers and rescue crews have been unable to re-establish communications with the El Faro crew.

Two Air Force C-130 Hurricane Hunter air crews attempted to locate and re-establish communications with El Faro unsuccessfully Thursday. Coast Guard crews remain on scene and will continue search efforts Friday by both air and sea.

Statement from Tim Nolan, president of TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico:

(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — On Sept. 29, the El Faro, one of TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico’s two ships, departed Jacksonville en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico. At the time of the El Faro’s departure, the vessel’s officers and crew were monitoring what was then Tropical Storm Joaquin. As of 7:20 a.m. EST on Thursday, Oct. 1, TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico lost all communication with the El Faro. The U.S. Coast Guard was immediately notified and since then we have been unable to re-establish communication. There are a number of possible reasons for the loss of communications, among them the increasing severity of Hurricane Joaquin.

TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico’s primary concern is for the safety and well-being of the 33 individuals on board. We are working to ensure clear and frequent communications with their families and loved ones as we learn more.

We have reached out to the families of those impacted and have established open lines of communication to provide them with timely updates. Our thoughts and prayers are with the individuals and their families.

TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico is working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and all available resources to establish communication by whatever means possible.

By Professional Mariner Staff