The cause of last year’s capsizing of the M/V Golden Ray and resulting pollution of coastal Georgia waters will be scrutinized during a seven-day public hearing that will get underway Monday.
The U.S. Coast Guard said the hearing will focus on the condition of the vessel prior to and at the time the vehicle carrier capsized and caught fire Sept. 8, 2019. It also will look at “the ship, owner and operator organizational structures and culture, the regulatory compliance record of the vessel and the loading process for the Port of Brunswick,” according to an announcement from the Coast Guard 7th District.
The Golden Ray has remained on its side in St. Simons Sound since it ran aground and capsized while leaving the Port of Brunswick in Georgia.
The Coast Guard, National Transportation Safety Board, Republic of Marshall Islands maritime administrator and the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal will conduct the formal hearing. The proceedings will begin at 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday as well as Sept. 21 and 22.
Because of risk-mitigation efforts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the public and media will not be allowed to physically attend the hearing in Brunswick. However, it will be livestreamed each day.
The roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) vessel was carrying an estimated 4,200 vehicles when it capsized. The Unified Command for the St. Simons Sound Incident Response was formed to address safety and environmental issues, including the removal of about 300,000 gallons of fuel in the Golden Ray’s tanks. That did not include the gas in the vehicles on board.
The Coast Guard said a formal investigation into the Golden Ray accident was launched because of the loss of the vessel, damage to U.S. property and discharge of hazardous substances.
A safety zone of a half nautical mile radius around the wreckage was established and an oil boom was utilized to trap leakage from the ship. Sphagnum moss-based sorbent also was sprayed on marsh grass in St. Simons Sound following the accident. The moss binds to oil and prevents it from spreading.
In early February, the Unified Command laid the groundwork for the dismantling of the Golden Ray with the construction of an environmental protection barrier around the vessel to help contain surface pollutants. The operation to cut and dismantle the ro-ro vessel was suspended in July because of impacts from the coronavirus pandemic as well as the arrival of hurricane season. Gallagher Marine Systems, the acting responsible party for Hyundai Glovis, the South Korean shipping and logistics company that operated the Golden Ray, said at the time that it expected the dismantling to resume the first of October.