Closer look: What likely caused damage to Golden Ray cargo ship?

After 2 weeks, cargo ship is still overturned in St. Simons Sound

JACKSONVILLE, Fla – A closer look at the overturned Golden Ray cargo ship, which after two weeks is still in St. Simons Sound, reveals damage to the keel of the ship.

On Tuesday, the News4Jax I-TEAM was able to get closer to the cargo ship than ever before, taking a small boat and coming to within 150 yards.

There appeared to be scraped paint where the bulbous bow transitions to the keel of the ship. News4Jax asked Rod Sullivan, a maritime expert and attorney, if the damage was significant.

"We know there was a buoy that actually went totally underneath the ship," Sullivan said. "The paint scraping is likely the bow and the chain going underneath the ship and scraping the paint away."

Sullivan believes the damage likely occurred after the ship overturned. He pointed out that at the time of the accident, another vessel was approaching the Golden Ray and both ships were sharing the channel.

"The Emerald Ace was inbound, and the Golden Ray was outbound. As they pass, one gets to the other side of the channel, and when they pass, they are at the edge of the channel," Sullivan said. "That appears to be where the rollover occurred.".

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Sullivan suspects improper stabilization was also a factor in the Golden Ray turning over. He thinks the ballast tank, which is in a compartment at the bottom of the ship, wasn't balanced properly as the ship made a turn.

"The cargo started breaking loose and then it just kept going. In my experience, no accident or major collision happens when two things go wrong, and in my opinion, what happened here was a combination (of things)," Sullivan said.

The tide was rising as the Golden Ray was outbound. Sullivan does not think that the ship went out of the channel, which is one of the things the NTSB is investigating.

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