A crane positions the 16th and final lifting lug onto the hull of the motor vessel Golden Ray in St. Simons Sound, Georgia, June 3, 2020.
The Golden Ray remains on its side in the St. Simons Sound more than a year after it capsized there, now with lifting lugs attached to help with the eventual cutting up and removal of the vessel.
Credit: St. Simons Sound Incident Response photo

Investigators are working on their final report on the Golden Ray, the cargo ship that capsized over a year ago and still sits in the St. Simons Sound, after a public hearing concluded Tuesday. 

Sworn testimony over the last week has detailed everything from the conditions of the ship and the waterway to the specifics of the accident itself on Sept. 8, 2019.

On the final day of testimony, a Coast Guard naval architect explained the vessel was top-heavy, tipping over as it turned. The center of gravity of the ship’s cargo of about 4,200 cars was too high, without enough liquid ballast below to counterbalance it, according to Lt. Ian Oviatt.

“The vessel could have taken on additional ballast to be in compliance with the 2008 intact stability code,” he said, referring to international safety criteria. “The cargo could have also been shifted so that that cargo was at a lower vertical center of gravity.”

Oviatt also testified that the ship released about 1,500 metric tons of ballast prior to its stops in Jacksonville and Brunswick. With that ballast on board, he said, the Golden Ray would have met the stability criteria.

With the public hearing over, the investigators are expected to compile a report including recommendations to prevent similar accidents going forward.