Friday, September 13, 2019

Car Carrying Vessel Founders and Brings the Best from US Authorities

So Far a Happy Ending to a Potential Tragedy
Shipping News Feature

US – The sight of the Golden Ray, the South Korean car carrier which capsized in Saint Simons Sound near Brunswick in Georgia last Sunday will have had chilling memories for UK readers, with the striking similarity of the images from the Herald of Free Enterprise which turned over in the English Channel in 1987 with the loss of 193 souls.

It is almost miraculous then to report that that the 24 strong crew aboard the 2017 built, Marshall Island flagged ship, have now all been rescued safely. The Golden Ray, operated by Hyundai Glovis Co, a logistics company headquartered in Seoul and part of the Hyundai Kia Automotive Group, was carrying over 4,000 vehicles and headed for Baltimore when she heeled over.

Despite the fact that a complex operation will now be needed to salvage the 21,000 dwt ship, loaded as she is with oil and fuel as well as her substantial cargo, the real story here goes far beyond another maritime incident even considering the potential for substantial pollution of the tourist and fishing waters of the Altamaha River and surrounds.

When the initial rescue effort was launched the authorities managed to extract the US pilot and 19 Korean and Filipino crew but were beaten back by fire before they could reach the other four trapped men. Hopes fell dramatically but when rescuers were able to get back aboard sounds of tapping were heard from the hull.

On Monday the US Coast Guard managed to drill through the hull and pass food and water to three crew who were sheltering near the propeller shaft in broiling temperatures. The last man was unreachable. After successfully extracting the three, efforts were redoubled to locate the missing man who was found trapped behind glass in a control room.

The US Coast Guard were keen to pass credit to all the services which made the rescue possible and published a full account here. Senior Chief Petty Officer Justin Irwin, the officer in charge at Coast Guard Station Brunswick, said the rescue was a miracle as severe dehydration had set in amongst the men who had been trapped in sweltering conditions for up to 40 hours, concluding:

”It was about 140 degrees in those compartments. Pitch black dark, no water, no food. Disoriented, covered in oil, just pure horror."

Those potential environmental problems of course remain and, with an overall length of 200 metres, salvaging the Golden Ray will prove a difficult problem to solve as the inquiry into the cause of the accident gets under way.

Photo: The stricken vessel on her side as fire takes hold with (inset) the last crewman exits his ship after his ordeal.