Cruise ship in crystal blue water with blue sky
Justia Lawyer Rating for Glenn J. Holzberg

Traumatic Capsizing off of Georgia's Coast

On Sunday, September 8, 2019, the Coast Guard was called to rescue the crew of The Golden Ray cargo ship which capsized off St. Simons Sound, Georgia. The ship began listing heavily at about 80 degrees, to the port side, before eventually overturning. The ship was bound for Baltimore, carrying automobiles, and was expected to arrive Monday. It is still unknown as to what caused the ship to overturn.

The Golden Ray, a 656-foot ship weighing 71,000 tons, owned by Hyundai Glovis, a cargo logistics company, based in South Korea had a team consisting of 23 crew members and a pilot  when the trouble began.

The Golden Ray overturned at approximately 1:30 a.m. The first dispatches from the ship came at around 2:00 a.m. Sunday according to Coast Guard Lt. Phillip VanderWeit. The Coast Guard initially rescued 20 people and later rescued the 4 remaining crew members. Rescuers were prevented from continuing their efforts to save the remaining 4 crew members as fires broke out on the ship, said Capt. John Reed, commander of the Coast Guard Sector Charleston. The ship owner said the rescued crew included 13 Philippines nationals, 6 Koreans, and an American harbor pilot. The 20 crewmembers that were rescued were given aid by The International Seafarers' Center in Brunswick, GA. The organization provided food and clothing to these crew members and were reported to be in stable condition. However, rescue efforts were slowed by the language barrier in dealing with this international crew.

Rescuers have begun drilling a hole to deliver supplies to those four crewmembers that are still stuck on the vessel. “This is a slow, but safe process,” the Coast Guard posted on Twitter. Now that all the crew members have been rescued and the ship is stabilized, salvage crews will figure out the best way to remove the ship without creating an environmental incident.

The Costa Concordia, a cruise ship which capsized in 2012, killing 32 people, took experienced salvage experts over 2 and ½ years and 1,200,000,000.00 (euros) to safely remove the ship from the Italian Coast. With regards to the Golden Ray, environmental groups and advocates are already worried about the probable damage to the water and waterways- as cleanups crews have already begun removing oil spilled. In the area, fuel could be smelled and was visible within and on top of the water, which are both signs of significant contamination. An emergency safety zone has been established in St. Simons Sound by the Port of Brunswick Captain of the Port (COTP). Vessels are not authorized within 0.5 miles of the Golden Ray. Details on the cleanup process have not been publicly released. According to the Coast Guard, it could take several weeks to remove the ship from its current position. There are currently 12 vessels and 179 first responders assisting while a long-term salvage plan for the vessel is being established.

As we all celebrate the safe rescue of all 24 people aboard the Golden Ray, the new challenge will be: What to do with the cargo that remains? This ship is filled with thousands of damaged cars, is blocking the nation’s second-busiest port for heavy machinery and vehicles.

Holzberg Legal has been representing US and foreign crew for over 30 years. Please contact us for a free consultation to explain your rights under the Jones Act and your employment agreement.  

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