Fishing Community Settles Lawsuit Five Years After Golden Ray Wreck

Golden Ray wreck
Fishermen allege lasting pollution after the Golden Ray heeled over in Georgia with over 4,100 cars aboard (USCG photo)

Published Jun 25, 2024 2:51 PM by The Maritime Executive


Plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits stemming from the 2019 wreck of the car carrier Golden Ray have reached an out-of-court settlement nearly 20 months after they sued alleging continuing contamination and loss of livelihood. It is the latest in the legacy of the wreck that took two years to clear from St. Simons Sound.

Commercial fishermen and charter boat guides and operators filed suit in U.S. District Court in September 2022, three years after the vessel heeled over in the bay and a year after the completion of one of the largest salvage efforts. The wide-reaching suit named the owners of the vessel, Hyundai Glovis as the operator of the car carrier, the staffing agency, and the local port agent in Brunswick, Georgia.

Terms of the settlement are confidential, but it was revealed in a filing to the court. The Brunswick News reported that the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of Georgia accepted the deal and a stipulation to dismiss the suit. Attorneys for the fishermen confirmed to the newspaper that a confidential settlement had been reached.

The suit filed on behalf of at least 30 commercial fishermen, including shrimpers and crabbers, as well as other commercial charter boat operators, contended the area’s waters remained heavily polluted. The initial filings claimed that the oil and other residues that leached from the wreck continued to degrade the water quality. They cited the initial leaks from the vessel as well as subsequent discharges during the salvage operation. They also cite the fires and other problems during the removal and remediation efforts.

Shrimpers told the newspaper that their catches remained diminished years after the incident. They have contended in past reports that they were still finding debris from the vessel and 4,161, cars that were aboard. They cite reports of debris washing ashore as well as contending that there are still parts on the seafloor. In addition, the Golden Ray had 380,000 gallons of fuel aboard when it heeled over and despite pumping and a containment effort, there continued to be leaks at various times during the salvage operation.

The Georgia county where the wreck occurred also filed suit in March 2022 alleging lost revenues and lasting environmental damage. Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division also took action against Hyundai Glovis imposing in November 2021 its largest-ever fine against a company. Hyundai Glovis was ordered to pay $3 million for the discharge of oil and pollutants into the waterway.