The device, found late on Monday on the ocean floor after 10 months of searching, could provide navigational data and communications between crew members that could help determine what happened in the final hours before the 790-foot (241-meter) ship sank, officials said.
All 33 crew onboard died when the ship sank off the Bahamas on Oct. 1, two days after leaving Jacksonville on a routine cargo run between Florida and Puerto Rico, before the storm intensified into a hurricane. It was the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a U.S.-flagged vessel in more than three decades.
"The recovery of the recorder has the potential to give our investigators greater insight into the incredible challenges that the El Faro crew faced," NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said in a statement.
A U.S. Coast Guard panel in May revealed the ship's captain intended to avoid the brewing storm when he departed, but may have had outdated weather data.
Hart said investigators have a long road ahead in uncovering the reason for the sinking.
"There is still a great deal of work to be done in order to understand how the many factors converged that led to the sinking," he said.