And it’s caused a huge mess on the coast of Georgia…
Shipwrecks can cause a huge mess which isn’t easily cleaned up, especially when it’s a huge cargo ship like the Golden Ray. While transporting thousands of cars in the St. Simons Sound off the southeast coast of Georgia on September 8, 2019, the ship suddenly lost power and then stability, tipping to one side. The crew of 24 were trapped inside for days before they were rescued. However, cleaning up the ship, which measures 656 feet long, has proven to be a difficult, expensive project.
Check out another famous car transport shipwreck here.
Don’t worry, nothing collectable or that interesting was damaged in this accident. Most of what was on board were Hyundai Accents, Kia Tellurides, Kia Fortes, Ram pickups, GM crossovers, and Mercedes SUVs.
The original route of the Golden Ray was altered by Hurricane Dorian. At first, the cargo ship was supposed to depart Mexico and hit several ports in the United States, finishing up in Wilmington, North Carolina. Thanks to the storm, the ship was delayed in leaving Texas and was routed to Jacksonville, Florida before going to Brunswick, Georgia.
In the investigation conducted by the United States Coast Guard, it came out that some shuffling of where cars from Brunswick were loaded onto the ship took place. After seemingly running out of room on one deck, the crew had the remaining vehicles placed on another deck.
Compounding the cleanup efforts has been the scapegoat of 2020 and now 2021: covid. That’s right, the virus has been blamed for slowing the work of cutting up the ship and hauling away sections. The cutting has been done with a giant chain, allowing a rigging constructed over the shipwreck to haul the 7 different sections up to be loaded onto barges. The process has been slow and reportedly very loud, upsetting residents in the area further.
Then a fire broke out as crews were preparing to cut a section of the ship away back in May of 2021. Black smoke billowed out of the Golden Ray and blew across the water, concerning nearby residents. One man interviewed by the local news lamented the environmental damage being done, claiming to have come across pieces of tar and even car bumpers while walking on the beach.
After working to clear the shipwreck for almost two years, the long project is almost complete. A report from CNN stated that in September of 2021 the final cut was made, leaving only two sections left to be hauled away.
The Coast Guard investigation also concluded there was no mechanical failure at the time of the accident. What’s strange is that the crew didn’t notice anything wrong with the ship before it capsized. No alarms sounded, no communications among crew members indicated a problem, and so the cause has remained a mystery.
We’ve seen a car transport ship capsize before, specifically the Hoegh Osaka, which ran aground in the Solent back in January of 2015. An investigation into that accident revealed that the ship was carrying far too much weight, a practice some claim is common in the automotive transportation business.
After months of the Coast Guard digging into the events surrounding the capsizing, the National Transportation Safety Board finally concluded the Golden Ray crew used incorrect calculations about the ship’s stability. It also found two watertight doors had been left open, allowing water to rush into the hull and flood part of the ship after it capsized, compounding the problem and trapping crew members in the engine room.
Pictures credit: YouTube