Golden Ray parties set to argue motions

Salvor Donjon-SMIT has filed papers in federal court in Brunswick, Georgia, USA, as a revised proposed findings of facts and conclusions of law. The salvor asserts that the environment was threatened, and that work on removal of capsized car carrier Golden Ray (IMO 9775816) was delayed for months because the US Coast Guard allowed the ship’s owner and its insurer to seek a better financial deal. Reports Brunswick News.

Donjon-SMIT had been under contract since September 20th 2017 as the sole provider of salvage and firefighting services on the Golden Ray, which capsized in St. Simons Sound.

Under that contract Donjon-SMIT had to acquire and maintain all the equipment and personnel necessary to respond within hours to carry out salvage and firefighting services, should the ship have an incident such as the event on September 8th, when it turned on its side on the edge of the shipping channel between St. Simons and Jekyll Island.

Donjon-SMIT filed the document in a US District Court as part of its federal suit against the USCG and its officers. The suit asserts that, because the USCG improperly allowed Hyundai Glovis and its insurer to terminate the contract, Donjon-SMIT suffered the loss of millions of dollars in revenue and that its reputation had been damaged.

Donjon-SMIT wants an injunction to halt work being done by another company.

The salvor asserts that the USCG failed to produce the full administrative record of its actions in overseeing the removal of the Golden Ray from the shipping channel. In its motion to compel the USCG to provide the full record, Donjon-SMIT repeatedly questioned the actions of Cmdr Norman C Witt, the USCG’s federal on-site coordinator.

Donjon-SMIT asserted that Witt did not inform it that the Navy’s office of ocean engineering and salvage and the Coast Guard’s Salvage Engineering Response team had advised that work could and should begin immediately to remove weight from the ship’s bow and stern. At the time, Donjon-SMIT was the primary resource provider for the clean-up and could have begun work shortly after November 5th 2019, the motion says.

Donjon-SMIT claimed that, although Witt’s primary responsibility was to protect the environment, he instead “allowed an environmental threat to fester, and causing a now 3.5 month delay in the Golden Ray’s removal.”

The salvor said that Cmdr Witt did so despite the Navy office of ocean engineering and salvage having stated that “the risk of an environmental incident is increasing with each passing day”.

That threat exists because the tides scoured away the seafloor under the ship and left portions of it unsupported and cantilevered, said Donjon-SMIT.

The motion asserts that the USCG provided only such documents that would support Witt’s decision that “special circumstances” existed under which Hyundai Glovis and its insurer could replace Donjon-SMIT with Texas-based T&T Salvage.

Donjon-SMIT asserted that it was willing and fully capable of carrying out the terms of the contract and that only thing that was different in this case was financial. The owner and the P&I Club wanted to submit the work to competitive bidding, which could result in a lower cost, and to secure an agreement for a lump sum payment, Donjon-SMIT said in its proposed facts.

In earlier hearings before US District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood, Donjon-SMIT said it could carry out a large-scale demolition, but that a small-scale demolition was preferred because it posed less risk to shipping and the environment.

T&T has begun carrying out part of its plan by driving pilings around the ship to build a large mesh containment area, while Donjon-SMIT’s suit is being heard in Woods’ court. Donjon-SMIT asserts that T&T’s plan poses a much greater risk to the environment, including the collapse of the vehicle as cutting weakens the structure and that many of the 4,200 vehicles would end up in St. Simons Sound.

2017-built, Marshall Islands-flagged, 71,178 gt Golden Ray is owned by GL NV24 Shipping Inc care of manager Hyundai Glovis of Seoul, South Korea. ISM manager is G-Marine Service Co Ltd of Busan, South Korea. It is entered with North of England Club on behalf of Hyundai Glovis Co, Ltd.