Golden Ray, a Ro-Ro vehicle carrier, witnessed capsizing that caused damages worth $200 million due to inaccurate stability calculations, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) mentioned on Tuesday. The Marine Accident Report explains the NTSB’s investigation of the September 8, 2019, capsizing of the roll-on/roll-off carrier Golden Ray as it transited outbound through St. Simons Sound near Brunswick, Georgia. All 23 crewmembers and one pilot on board were rescued, along with four engineering crew who were trapped in the vessel for around 40 hours. Two crewmembers were gone through serious injuries. The Golden Ray has witnessed considerable damage due to fire, flooding and saltwater corrosion and was declared a total loss worth around $62.5 million. An estimated $142 million worth of cargo, with the inclusion of more than 4,100 vehicles, was also lost.
After 40 minutes of departure from the port, the 656-foot-long Golden Ray began to heel rapidly to port during a 68‑degree turn to starboard. The rate of turn to starboard increased, and the vessel reached a heel of 60 degrees to port in under a minute before it grounded outside of the channel despite several attempts by the pilot and crew to counter the heel. The NTSB has determined that the probable cause of the capsizing of the Golden Ray was the chief officer’s error entering ballast quantities into the stability calculation program, which resulted in his incorrect determination of the vessel’s stability and led to the Golden Ray having an insufficient righting arm to counteract the forces developed during a turn while transiting outbound from the Port of Brunswick through St. Simons Sound. Contributing to the accident was G-Marine Service Co. Ltd.’s (the vessel’s operator) lack of effective procedures in their safety management system for verifying stability calculations.
The NTSB came to a conclusion that the Golden Ray did not meet international stability standards at departure and possessed less stability than the chief officer calculated. After the vessel capsized, open watertight doors allowed flooding into the vessel, which blocked the primary egress from the engine room, where four crewmembers were trapped, according to the NTSB. Two watertight doors had been left open for almost two hours prior to the accident. No one on the bridge made it sure that the doors were closed before departing the port.
The report said: “The circumstances of this accident show that even when transiting in protected waters, watertight integrity is critical to the safety of the vessel and its crew. It is essential that the operator ensure that crews verify that all watertight doors are closed in accordance with safety management system procedures.”