The Argentine military submarine ARA San Juan and crew are seen leaving the port of Buenos Aires, Argentina June 2, 2014. Picture taken on June 2, 2014. Armada Argentina/Handout via REUTERS

Argentina’s navy on Thursday (Nov 30) formally ended its search for survivors from the San Juan submarine, two weeks after the vessel went missing in the South Atlantic with 44 crew aboard.

The navy has shifted its mission from rescue to recovery, spokesman Enrique Balbi said.

He said though it was not possible to definitively confirm the crew had perished, “no evidence of a shipwreck was found in the areas explored” and the international rescue effort had continued for “twice the time” it was estimated they could have survived.

The navy’s final contact with the ARA San Juan, a German-built diesel-electric sub, came on Nov 15, when it was sailing in the South Atlantic 450km from the coast.
In its final communication, the submarine reported it had overcome a mechanical breakdown that resulted from a short circuit due to the entry of water via the vessel’s snorkel.

Three hours later, a noise similar to an explosion was recorded 48km from where the crew had given its last report.

The position was in line with the path the submarine would have taken to reach its base in Mar del Plata as planned, the navy has said.