Officer’s Error Likely Caused The Shipwreck, Says Report


  • Investigators found that the ship’s senior officer’s faults were most likely responsible for the unstable loading.
  • The ship’s crew was rescued safely following the wreck on Sept. 8, 2019. 

A top officer’s errors in calculating the stability of a cargo ship loaded with nearly 4,200 automobiles likely caused the giant vessel to overturn along the Georgia coast, says an article published in Associated Press.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board issued a 57-page report on the South Korean freighter Golden Ray capsizing, which is still being removed in pieces from the water off St. Simons Island two years later.

The crew

The ship’s crew was rescued safely following the wreck on Sept. 8, 2019. But the ship, measuring 656 feet (199 meters), was deemed a total loss, as was its cargo of new automobiles. The NTSB reported the combined losses totaled more than $204 million.

The NTSB reiterated a Coast Guard expert’s findings from a public hearing last year that the Golden Ray didn’t have enough water in its ballast tanks, used to add weight at the bottom of a vessel, to offset that of the vehicles in its cargo decks above. That left the ship’s center of gravity too high.

The Golden Ray

Soon after leaving the Port of Brunswick, some 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of Savannah, the Golden Ray’s instability caused it to tilt significantly during a starboard turn. According to the NTSB investigation, a pilot’s door on a lower deck that had been left openly allowed seawater to fill the ship, cutting off the escape path for some crew members who later had to be rescued from the engine room. Investigators decided that the ship’s top officer, who reported directly to the captain, made mistakes that caused the unstable loading. According to the investigation, the ship’s computer, which analyses loading data to calculate the stability, was not adequately trained by the chief officer.

“The chief officer made errors with the ballast tank level data entry into the shipboard stability calculation computer,” the NTSB report said, “which led to his incorrect determination of the vessel’s stability.”


Roughly half of the wreck has been transported by barge to a scrapyard in Louisiana. Though the heavy lifting is ending, the remaining cleanup work is expected to take months. Cutaway sections of the ship docked in Georgia must be broken down further before being carried away by barge. Meanwhile, mangled cars and other debris that fell from the wreck as it was being cut apart must be fished from the water before a large mesh containment barrier surrounding the site can be removed. The NTSB investigates highway, railroad, aircraft, and maritime crashes, but it has no regulatory authority.

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Source: Associated Press


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