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‘Outstanding news’: Last four crew members rescued from car carrier Golden Ray

Twenty-three crew members and pilot of the Hyundai Glovis car carrier have all been rescued after their ship capsized leaving the Port of Brunswick.

Four crew members who were trapped inside the capsized car carrier Golden Ray at the Port of Brunswick in Georgia were extracted from the ship during the afternoon on Monday, Sept. 9.

“We have outstanding news to report this afternoon,” said Capt. John Reed,  the commander of Coast Guard Sector Charles, as he began a press conference minutes after local television showed footage of the third crew member extracted from the ship and being loaded into a stretcher and then onto a boat that would rush him to a hospital.

Two other members were ambulatory enough that they were able to crawl through a 2-foot-by-3-foot hole that had been cut into the hull of the ship near the prop and walk onto a boat. They too were being transported to a hospital for evaluation. Nineteen crew members and the ship’s pilot had been rescued in the first 10 hours after the ship had grounded at about 2 a.m. on Sept. 8 as it was leaving Brunswick. The Golden Ray is operated by the South Korean shipping and logistics company Hyundai Glovis.

Reed said the last remaining crewman had been located, but was on a different deck in a glass-enclosed engineering control room. Within a couple of hours, he also had been pulled from the ship.

The condition of the four men was “relatively good for having spent 34 to 35 hours in the conditions they were in,” said Reed. Extreme heat was an issue inside and outside the ship. Temperatures were as hot as 120 degrees as the sun beat down on the upturned hull where rescue workers labored to free the men inside. 

The men had been trapped near the bottom of the 600-foot Golden Ray and were “subject to some pretty tough conditions, ” he said.

“This is a dynamic situation and, frankly, we did not have time to prepare for this press conference,” said Reed.

He added there was still work to be done to mitigate damage to the environment and the local economy by removing the ship from where it is located. 

Donjon-Smit, a joint venture of Donjon Marine Co. and SMIT Internationale, is developing a salvage plan for the ship, and is sending vessels to Brunswick, but details were not immediately available.

The Coast Guard said it has has established an emergency safety zone in St. Simons Sound. Vessels are not authorized within .5 miles of the Golden Ray, which is laid over on its side. The Coast Guard added that it “has shifted operations completely to environmental protection, removing the vessel safely and resuming commerce.”

Image: U.S. Coast Guard

Rescuers were able to locate the men during the night by listening to them tap from the inside of the hull. They then drilled holes into the ship and were able to supply them with water, food and fresh air before finally making a large enough hole for the three to escape.

A  spokesman for the Coast Guard said investigators are interviewing crew members and looking at analytical data to determine why the ship capsized.

Sources tell American Shipper that transfer of ballast water or fuel could be the cause or a contributing factor to the loss of stability of the Golden Ray.

Ballast water exchange was blamed for the 2006 capsize of Mitsui O.S.K.’s car carrier Cougar Ace in the Pacific Ocean near the Aleutian Islands, and a failure to adjust ballast water also was cited by investigators into the 2008 grounding of the ferry Riverdance near Lancashire in the United Kingdom.

A U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Board looking into the 2015 grounding of the Hoegh Osaka warned that too little attention was being paid to the issues of stability by operators of roll-on, roll-off ships, particularly pure car carriers (PCCs) and pure car-truck carriers (PCTCs). 

“What is a fundamental principle of seamanship appears to have been allowed to drift, giving rise to potential unsafe practices,” that report said.

“Witness and anecdotal evidence suggests that the practice of not calculating a departure stability condition on completion of cargo operations and before a ship sails extends beyond the chief officer, Hoegh Osaka, Wallem and Hoegh Autoliners to the PCC/PCTC sector in general.  The chief officer placing little value on the importance of conducting accurate stability calculations appears to be widespread, such that for reasons of efficiency, as highlighted in the MAIB’s Riverdance investigation, ships are sailing under the assumption that their stability condition is safe.”

Traffic to and from the Port of Brunswick was blocked while the rescue operations were underway.

Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.