Four crew who were previously “unaccounted” for in a Hyundai-owned car-carrying ship that capsized and caught fire early Sunday morning in a Brunswick, Ga., port were being rescued Monday afternoon.
Coast Guard Air Station Savannah crews responded to the 656-foot vehicle carrier Golden Ray after the vessel became disabled and started to list in St. Simons Sound.
The Golden Ray had 24 people on board including the ship’s pilot, and 20 of the 24 people have been rescued with four unaccounted for and the Coast Guard and “port partners” had been searching for the remaining four crew.
After capsizing, the disabled vessel caught fire.
The Coast Guard had told the AP that because of the fire, they cannot access the interior of the “unstable” ship. And says “noises” were heard from inside the vessel but are unsure if those sounds are signs of life saying it “can’t confirm that without going in and looking, but they did hear sounds.”
But South Korea’s foreign minister said that the four crew members are trapped in the vessel’s engine room and that they responded to tapping on the ship’s hull. Deputy Foreign Minister for Overseas Koreans and Consular Affairs Lee Sang-jinir was quoted by Korea media saying that hours after the accident, rescue staff tapped on the hull to ensure that the Koreans are alive, and some of them apparently responded three times. The ministry said in a text to a reporter, “A lifeboat is on standby at night to continue tapping on the hull.”
Then at around 11 a.m. Monday, the Coast Guard said it had “made contact” with the missing crew and was affecting a rescue.
According to marine traffic reports, the 71,178-ton Golden Ray was “stopped” before he made it out of St. Simons Sound at the Brunswick port. The ship, built in 2017, sails under a Marshal Islands flag. It left the port at around 1:30 a.m. Sunday destined for Baltimore and due to arrive Monday, with a full load of automobiles. Distress calls were responded to at around 2 a.m.
The vessel was carrying newly manufactured Hyundai cars from Mexico headed to Baltimore and then, reportedly, to the Middle East for “market discharge.”
A marine bulletin suggested that the ship may have capsized because of a “sudden loss of stability, which may be caused by faulty ballasting, or cargo shift, or a mass of water on cargo deck.” Apparently “one of main dangers for ships with cargo compartments going throughout the ship both in length and width, like car carriers or ro-ro ferries.” A roll-on, roll-off ship, dubbed a ro-ro, carries cars, trains and other vehicles.
The crew is from South Korea and the Philippines. It’s reported the pilot is an American.
In addition to two USCG response boat crews, two helicopters and Cutter Heron, also involved in the mission are the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Moran Towing, SeaTow, Brunswick Bar Pilots Association, and the Glynn County Fire Department.
The Port of Brunswick Captain of the Port established an emergency safety zone in St. Simons Sound which means vessels are not allowed within a half-mile of the ship listing at a 90 degree angle.