Monday, March 22, 2021

"Ship Happens: How the Golden Ray's Final Voyage Went Wrong in a Hurry"

As noted in the outro from June 2020's Shipping: "LNG Fueled Car Freighter Begins Service for Volkswagen Group"

There have been some really messed up events involving car carriers.
The most recent was the Golden Ray which tipped over with 4000 vehicles off the coast of Georgia in September 2019:
Shipping: Trapped Crewmen on Capsized Car Carrier Contacted
Three Of Four Golden Ray Crew Members Have Been Extracted

Six months earlier it was:
When the "Grande America" Sank On March 12 It Took Some Very Valuable Automobiles to the Bottom
And so far this century probably a dozen sinkings, fires or other mayhem.
So Bon Voyage to Confucius. [Siem's Confucius]

From Car & Driver, March 19:

In September 2019, a cargo ship carrying 4200 vehicles capsized off the coast of Georgia. Nineteen months later, as the massive salvage effort nears its end, we finally have an idea of what happened.

The busy season on St. Simons Island, Georgia, typically runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But 2020's tourist boom lasted well into November. A short detour off I-95, about halfway between Savannah and Jacksonville, St. Simons Island is known for golf and saltwater-based leisure pursuits. On one clear and breezy late-fall afternoon, people seeking a reprieve from their couches cruised the palm-tree-lined high street on foot or bikes; others sat on benches licking soft serve while staring at the fishing trawlers and cargo ships in the distance. The lower the sun dipped on the horizon, the more people drifted to the pier in pursuit of the perfect sunset snap. And amid all the smiles and poses, no one seemed to mind the giant shipwreck lurking in the background. If anything, they huddled closer together to keep the beached metal whale in frame.

Before it capsized, the MV Golden Ray shuttled cars through the auto industry's global supply chain for two years, leading a nondescript existence in the world of modern shipping operations. More than two football fields long and 17 stories tall, this roll-on/roll-off vehicle transporter makes your double-decker pontoon boat look like a bath toy. With its massive 17,335-hp 5522-liter two-stroke diesel inline-seven turning at a relatively lazy (for this magazine, anyway) 77 rpm, the Hyundai Glovis–owned ship plied the seas at a max speed of 20 knots (23 mph).

In September 2019, the Golden Ray departed the Port of Brunswick, Georgia, with a haul of about 4200 vehicles and soon developed a catastrophic list. The floating parking garage, with space for up to 7742 vehicles, tipped onto its side and beached itself just off the St. Simons Island shoreline. Nineteen months later, the Golden Ray's journey is finally nearing its end. This is the story, reconstructed from interviews and a multiagency investigative hearing conducted last September, of how a laden ship weighing approximately 38,600 tons lost its balance, became a gapers'-block tourist attraction on the Georgia coast, and launched a salvage effort that makes crushing cars look like child's play.

Even with Hurricane Dorian bearing down on Florida, the Golden Ray's final voyage was poised to be like any other assignment for the 23 Korean and Filipino seafarers serving in the ship's complement. The monthslong itinerary had the ship sailing from the Gulf of Mexico, up the Eastern Seaboard, and on to the Middle East. To avoid the storm, the Golden Ray treaded water after leaving Freeport, Texas, to slow its arrival to Brunswick, the nation's sixth-busiest auto port and an essential distribution outlet for the Hyundai factory in Montgomery, Alabama, and the Kia plant in West Point, Georgia.

On September 7, 2019, the Golden Ray eased into the harbor, where stevedores offloaded 285 Hyundai Accents and Kia Fortes from two decks and loaded 339 brand-new Kia Tellurides onto three. Harbor pilot Jonathan Tennant then joined the crew to navigate the boat out of the narrow shipping channel. Around 12:45 a.m. the next day, the Golden Ray raised its 275-ton stern ramp, and captain Gi Hak Lee declared it "ready for sea" and the voyage to Baltimore. Flanked by the Dorothy Moran tugboat, the Golden Ray made for the Atlantic with Tennant giving commands to the quartermaster at its helm. "Our job is very much about feel," he says. "You become in sync with the vessel." It was a still, 72-degree morning—"cupcake conditions," Tennant says. He remembers looking out at the moon, the lighthouse on St. Simons Island, and the lights on the Emerald Ace, an inbound car carrier. Once he felt in control of the vessel, he dismissed his tug so it could assist the Ace and pressed on, eventually ordering 10 degrees of starboard rudder to make the fourth turn of the voyage out to sea. But 10 degrees wasn't enough, so Tennant called for the next logical thing: 20 degrees starboard. That's when the ship began to lose it....