The ‘unprecedented’ wreck of a cargo ship that mysteriously capsized off the coast of Georgia in September will be sawed apart

  • A cargo ship owned by Hyundai Glovis, Hyundai motor’s ocean freight logistics company, capsized and caught fire off the coast of Georgia in September.
  • The cargo ship was carrying about 4,000 Hyundai Motors and Kia Motors cars, according to Reuters, which are all likely lost.
  • All 24 crew members that were on board were rescued alive.
  • As of December 20, the ship’s rudder and propeller and over 320,000 gallons of oil and water have been removed, but the bulk of the ship remains.
  • The removal company has decided to start removing the cargo ship by around late-March and will do so by sawing the Golden Ray into eight pieces and removing the ship segment-by-segment, NPR reported.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A cargo ship carrying about 4,000 cars capsized and caught fire in September in St. Simons Sound off the coast of Brunswick, Georgia, according to NPR.

The cargo ship was the 656-foot vehicle carrier Golden Ray which can carry up to 6,933 cars. It’s owned by Hyundai Glovis, according to Reuters and the roughly 4,000 cars on the cargo ship are Hyundai and Kia vehicles that were slated for import.

There were 24 people on board, 23 crew members and one pilot. Of the rescued, 20 were initially safely removed from the boat according to the US Coast Guard. The remaining four were later rescued, all alive and in “relatively good condition,” according to the Associated Press.

The cause is still under investigation and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has been monitoring the coastal environmental conditions following the capsizing.

The removal company now has a goal of removing the ship before peak hurricane season, NPR reported. It will do so by sawing the Golden Ray into eight pieces and taking each segment piece-by-piece out of the water and onto a barge, according to an animated video released by St. Simons Sound Joint Information Center on YouTube.


The cargo ship Golden Ray capsized and caught fire in September in St. Simons Sound off the coast of Brunswick, Georgia, roughly 80 miles south of Savannah, Georgia.


The ship listed a full 90 degrees, according to CBS News.

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Golden Ray.
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Coastal Resources Division – Georgia DNR

The 656-foot vehicle carrier Golden Ray is owned and operated by Hyundai Glovis, Hyundai Motor’s ocean freight logistics division.


The ship was carrying about 4,000 Hyundai Motors and Kia Motors vehicles, which have likely been destroyed.

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Golden Ray.
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Coastal Resources Division – Georgia DNR

“We are making rescue of crew members as our top priority. After that we will investigate any damage on cargo,” a Hyundai Glovis official told Reuters at the time.


The Golden Ray has the capacity to carry 6,933 vehicles.


The ship was headed to Baltimore up the coast from Jacksonville, Florida.


There were 24 people on board, 23 crew members and one pilot. Everyone has been rescued alive.


Before being rescued, the rescue team was communicating with the trapped crew members through a hole the rescuers’ drilled, according to CBS.


The cause of the capsizing is still under investigation and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has been monitoring the coastal environmental conditions following the capsizing.


The company thanked the Coast Guard in a statement, and said it would work on “mitigating damage to property and the environment.”

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Golden Ray.
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Coastal Resources Division – Georgia DNR

A joint recovery team between the state of Georgia, the Coast Guard, and Hyundai’s contractor, Gallagher Marine Systems, was tasked with pumping the approximately 300,000 gallons of fuel and oil out of the ship’s tank, NPR reported.

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Golden Ray.
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U.S. Coast Guard/Handout via Reuters

So far, they have removed roughly 220,000 gallons.

Source: NPR


Despite these efforts, the Golden Ray had been leaking an “unknown” amount of fuel. Oil sheens have been found in the surrounding waters on the beaches and marshes.


The crew has been trying to mitigate the spill spreading by setting up containment booms, spraying oil absorbents onto the marshes, and removing oiled dead grass.


Salvage crew members have also been monitoring the air and water quality and toxicity inside the ship to predict possible further contamination.

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Golden Ray.
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Sean Rayford/Getty Images

On October 25, the St. Simons Sound Response’s Unified Command released 3D-photos of the ship’s decks. This is the ninth deck.

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Golden Ray.
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Georgia Department of Natural Resources St. Simons Sound Response

Source: St. Simons Sound Response


The photos, including this one of the fourth deck, were created using laser technology that analyzed the inaccessible cargo hold filled with damaged cars.

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Golden Ray.
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Georgia Department of Natural Resources St. Simons Sound Response

Three days after the photos were released, the command decided to place rocks next to the hull to slow down the boat’s erosion, according to Maritime Executive. The rocks will be removed after the Golden Ray has been completely dismantled.

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Golden Ray.
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Georgia Department of Natural Resources St. Simons Sound Response

Source: Maritime Executive


Marine chemists and salvage operators, pictured below on November 22, have been assessing the oil inside of the wreckage in order to figure out the best way to remove oil without damaging the environment and response crew.

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Golden Ray.
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St. Simons Sound Response

Work barges have been deployed to clean up the tank’s oil, as announced by St. Simons Sound Response on December 4. Barges provide better access to crew members and equipment.

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Golden Ray.
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St. Simons Sound Response

Source: St. Simons Sound Response


On December 12, the St. Simons Sound Incident Response Unified Command finished removing oil from all of the ship’s 26 accessible tanks. Some of the tanks were submerged and had to be oil pumped via diving operations.

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Golden Ray.
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St. Simons Sound Response

Over 320,000 gallons of oil and water were removed.

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Golden Ray.
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St. Simons Sound Response

“This milestone helps ensure the health of the environment and the livelihoods of the people who rely on the St. Simons Sound,” Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s emergency response state on-scene coordinator Jed Hewitt said in a statement. “The removal of fuel from the vessel has significantly reduced the remaining threat to the environment.”


On December 20, Golden Ray’s rudder and propeller —which weighed a total of 130 tons — were removed and “will help reduce stresses to the hull of the wreck,” St. Simons Sound Response wrote in a statement.

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Golden Ray.
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St. Simons Sound Response

A fire was started on board the ship on January 19 when contract welders were working inside the ship. At least one car inside of the Golden Ray caught on fire, but the flames were put out via the contractor’s fireboat, local news reported.

Source: First Coast News, News 4 Jax


Donjon-SMIT, the former Golden Ray salvage company, filed a lawsuit against the US Coast Guard alleging that the Coast Guard violated federal law by dropping Donjon-SMIT to work with a rival company, News 4 Jax reported.

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Golden Ray.
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Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Himes

Donjon-SMIT claims the US Coast Guard allegedly violated a 1990 federal law after Donjon-SMIT was dropped as the official salvage response company even though it was already a part of the Golden Ray’s response plan, WABE reported.

“The cars need to be safely removed to avoid environmental disaster,” Donjon-SMIT said in the legal filing, News 4 Jax reported.

Source: News 4 Jax


Now, the new salvage company is set to start removing the Golden Ray in March, NPR reported.

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Golden Ray cargo ship in St. Simons Island, Georgia.
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Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Source: NPR


St. Simons Sound Joint Information Center released an animated video on YouTube depicting how the wreck will be removed.

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Golden Ray cargo ship in St. Simons Island, Georgia.
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Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Source: YouTube


The Golden Ray will be sawed into eight pieces, and the sections will then be individually lifted out of the water and placed onto a barge to be taken away.

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Golden Ray cargo ship in St. Simons Island, Georgia.
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Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The US Coast Guard called the wreck “unprecedented,” NPR reported.

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Golden Ray cargo ship in St. Simons Island, Georgia.
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Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Workers from the salvage company are placing an environmental barrier around the Golden Ray that will stop oil and debris from spreading during the removal process.

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Golden Ray cargo ship in St. Simons Island, Georgia.
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Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The goal is to have the cargo ship removed before this summer’s hurricane season.

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Golden Ray cargo ship in St. Simons Island, Georgia.
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Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images