Shifting cargo a focus for USCG in Golden Ray capsize investigations

The US Coast Guard is leading the investigation into what caused car carrier Golden Ray (IMO 9775816) to capsize early on Sunday September 8th, soon after she departed the Port of Brunswick, about 70 miles south of Savannah.

The vessel was carrying 4,200 vehicles when it overturned on the Georgia coast, around 60% of capacity, and experts said that investigators would be looking for shifting cargo or other problems that upset the giant vessel’s balance enough to make it fall onto its side.

The ship’s pilot and 23 crew members were all rescued, although four men were trapped for 36 hours before they could be extracted through a hole drilled into the hull.

Investigators will be asking whether vehicles in the cargo decks might have shifted and upset the ship’s balance, and whether they were lashed down correctly. They would also be looking at the amount of water in the ballast tanks.

The weather at the time of the incident was calm.

The Army Corps of Engineers had inspected the shipping channel between the Brunswick port and the Atlantic Ocean to look for any obstructions in the wake of Storm Dorian that might impede ship traffic. None was found.

USCG Captain John Reed said that the Golden Ray was making a turn before it capsized. An inbound ship was passing the Golden Ray around the same time it overturned in St. Simons Sound. One possible scenario was that, if the ship was turning a bit too fast, she might have listed just enough to set off a chain reaction, with cars shifting and creating a greater list, then causing water ingress, and so on – a sequence that would ultimately turn over the ship.

Meanwhile the USCG was working with salvage experts to decide how to remove the Golden Ray from the shipping channel. Cmdr. Norm Witt said that “this is a complex salvage case. It is not going to be quick. I would say we’re going to measure this in weeks, if not months.”

Authorities are still assessing how to remove the vessel, which is stuck on St Simons Sound.

A half-mile perimeter has been established around the Golden Ray, which sits half in the water with its starboard side pointing skyward. An oil boom has been placed around the ship. Salvage teams are likely to start taking the bunker fuel from the ship this weekend to this report.

The port of Brunswick has now reopened on a case by case basis

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.