National Transportation Safety Board releases findings in Golden Ray investigation

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 10:54 PM EDT
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GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - It has been more than two years since a massive ship overturned off the Georgia Coast.

The news of the ‘Golden Ray’ capsizing gained national attention. More than years later, a new report details what happened, who’s to blame, and the crew’s struggle for survival.

It is an error that is costing hundreds of millions of dollars and impacting the way of life for people who live there, work there, and vacation on St. Simon’s.

The National Transportation Safety Board released its findings from the years-long investigation. According to the report from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Chief Officer had the wrong calculations. Thinking the ship was more stable than it actually was.

Here are the exact terms used in the report: “The NTSB determined the probable cause of the capsizing of the Golden Ray was the chief officer’s error entering ballast quantities into the stability calculation program.”

According to the agency that wrong calculation made the vessel less stable and prevented crews from righting it as made a sharp turn leaving the Port of Brunswick.

The report goes on to say the Golden Rays operator contributed to the crash because of, “A lack of effective procedures in their safety management system for verifying stability calculations.”

Now, only pieces of the vessel remain in the St. Simons Sound.

“What we are down to, is the mid-ship. The two sections that are right in the middle of the ship. Section Five has a significant amount of damage on the bottom that it sustained when it capsized,” said Petty Officer Michael Himes, Unified Command.

Unified Command Petty Officer Michael Himes says two pieces remain. He says cutting will continue this week once they finish changes to their lifting system.

A barge will go to the wreck site where it will take a piece of the wreckage then transfer it to a local facility in Brunswick.

“That same process will be used for the last section. What we call Section 4, the last piece of the ship that is still inside the protection barrier we have not attempted to lift it yet. That won’t happen until we’re clear of Section 5.”

Cars and debris inside will be removed and dismantled into smaller pieces, then sent to Louisiana. Himes says they do not have a target date on when they’ll be complete with the final cut.

However, he says they will still have a bit of work to do after the wreck has been removed.

“We still expect several months and that includes the deconstruction of the barrier that surrounds the wreck and the debris that’s inside that barrier. Once the debris is removed we will then demobilize the site.”

In the end, it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Cost estimates for salvage operations alone are around $250 million.

According to the report, 4,067 vehicles were on the Golden Ray. Total costs for the vessel are estimated to cost $62.5 million. Costs for loss of cargo are estimated at $142 million.

The NTSB issued safety recommendations to G-Marine Service Co. Ltd, who operated the Golden Ray:

  • Revise its safety management system to establish procedures for verifying stability calculations and implement audit procedures to ensure their vessels meet stability requirements before leaving the port; and
  • Revise its safety management system audit process to verify crew adherence to the Arrival/Departure Checklist regarding the closure of watertight doors.

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