Capsized ship in Port of Brunswick: It's happened before

2015 incident in United Kingdom happened at sea

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The capsizing of M/V Golden Ray leaving the Port of Brunswick early Sunday is not the first time something like that has happened to a car and truck transport ship.

An extremely similar case that happened off the Isle of Wight in England in January 2015. A similar vessel named the Hoegh Osaka was hauling cars and trucks when it tipped over and, like in Brunswick, 24 crew members had to be rescued.

But there were also differences. The Hoegh Osaka was already away from a seaport when it started listing to one side and eventually tipped over in the water. Eventually the ship was able to be moved to shore and salvaged.

According to an accident report published in 2016, improper ballast was one of the contributing factors that caused the Hoegh Osaka to list, or to tip to one side. Ballast is the mechanism of weighting the bottom of a boat so it won't be too top heavy. But the cargo inside -- cars and trucks -- contributed to the listing of the ship.  

The report reads: "Cargo distribution was such that the upper vehicle decks were full while the lower vehicle decks were lightly loaded. ... it was most likely that the cargo shifted due to the ship’s excessive list and was not causal to the accident."

"It's a similar-looking ship, there's no question about it," local maritime expert Rod Sullivan told News4Jax. "And there are similarities. it is a car carrier. it listed over one side initially and then it was intentionally beached after the cargo listed then it needed to be righted."

While the project to right or disassemble the Golden Ray could take weeks or months. The case in 2015 happened a lot more quickly.

"The salvage, in the case of Hoegh Osaka was completed in four days," Sullivan said. "They refloated it in four days then took it to shipyard, but (it was) a year before they could take out to sea," 

A major complication of the Golden Ray recovery is that it is so close to shore and the potential environmental damage.

"There has been visible oil leaking from the Golden Ray," Sullvan said. "In the Hoegh Osaka report, it said there was no pollution."

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Sullivan said the Golden Ray's owner, Hyundai Glovis, would prefer to keep the two-year-old ship and repair it so it can remain in service because these types of car and truck carriers can cost tens of millions of dollars. But they have to weigh that against any potential environmental damage in Brunswick's waters. If the environmental damage is excessive, the ship may not be worth it."

Sullivan used $1 billion as an example of the environmental cleanup cost without knowing what the actual total will be. 

"We have a ship that's worth 10% of that, so you don't want to have a major pollution incident in a United States port. The liability of that can far exceed the value of the ship," Sullivan said.

About the Author:

Scott Johnson

Specializes in Clay County issues, general assignment reporting and stories off the beaten path and anchors weekend evening newscasts.