Coast Guard searching for missing cargo ship out of Jacksonville

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The local Coast Guard office confirms that a missing ship that is owned and operated out of Jacksonville is missing in the Atlantic.

Coast Guard search and rescue crews are searching for a container ship with 33 crew members aboard reported to be caught in Hurricane Joaquin near Crooked Island, Bahamas.The El Faro, a 735-foot ro-ro cargo ship, was en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville. The ship, which the Coast Guard said is disabled, left Tuesday.

The Coast Guard said the ship is carrying 28 U.S. citizens and five Polish nationals.  The ship's communications equipment could have been disabled or destroyed in the storm, the Coast Guard said.

According to Sea Star Line's website, "SS El Faro is named after the many Puerto Rican lighthouses and represents Sea Star Line’s vision, guidance, and commitment to the trade between the U.S. and Puerto Rico." The website noted that the ship was introduced in 2006.

TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico’s President Tim Nolan issued the following statement on Friday regarding the situation of the El Faro:

“ 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.


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“We have reached out to the families of those impacted and have established open lines of communication to provide them with timely updates," Nolan said. "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 resource to establish communication by whatever means possible.”

At approximately 7:30 a.m. Thursday, watchstanders at the Coast Guard Atlantic Area command center in Portsmouth, Virginia, received an Inmarsat satellite notification stating the 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.

The Coast Guard said on Friday that the the ship disappeared near the eye of the storm. They worked all day Thursday to establish communcations but were unable to do so.

Watchstanders at the Coast Guard 7th District command center in Miami launched an HC-130 aircrew out of Clearwater, Fla. to search for the El Faro. 

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

The Coast Guard said the C-130s were flying as low as possible in the storm to try to locate the missing ship. On Friday night, search efforts were temporarily suspended, but crews will resume searching Saturday morning at first light.


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