On Oct. 1, 2015, the 791-foot-long El Faro sank after it ran into Hurricane Juaquin during its scheduled voyage from Jacksonville, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Now, two years after the loss of the ship and its crew of 33, the ill-fated ship's owner, TOTE Maritime, says it is working to ensure that relief and recovery supplies are available to Puerto Rico, devastated by Hurricane Maria in mid-September.
TOTE Maritime and sister company Tropical say they have discharged three vessels in the relief effort. As of September 26, more than 2750 FEUS (forty-foot equivalents) of cargo, including ice, water, fuel, generators and canned/dried food had arrived at the island.
The company has operated under provisions of the Jones Act since 1975. On September 28, President Trump waived the Act's restrictions for Puerto Rico at the request of the island's governor and after an outcry from Congress about shortages of fuel, food, and emergency supplies in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
The decision temporarily lifts the Jones Act's restrictions prohibiting foreign-flagged vessels from picking up and delivering fuel between U.S. ports.
On Oct. 1, 2015 the El Faro sank in 15,000 feet of water off of the Bahamas. In a recorded satellite phone call to an emergency call center early on October 1, the ship's captain reported a marine emergency and said that there was a hull breach, that a scuttle had blown open, and that there was water in hold number 3. The ship had lost its main propulsion unit and engineers could not get it going.
The El Faro was carrying grocery, cars, and various retail products on its regularly scheduled run.
In the wake of Hurricane Maria, TOTE Maritime says it is working directly with the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as various local churches and smaller local organizations to prioritize the most critical items. In addition, TOTE says it is working to ensure future sailings contain key items for the communities of Puerto Rico.
Tim Nolan, president of TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, said that one of its ships can carry the same amount of goods as nearly 2,000 passenger planes.
According to TOTE Maritime, it's bringing on additional equipment to ensure continuous flow of cargo to the island with upcoming sailings.
The National Transportation Safety Board plans to meet Dec. 12, 2017, in Washington to determine the probable cause of the El Faro's sinking. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast live.