Judge questions plan to remove capsized ship in huge chunks

Judge questions plan to remove capsized ship in huge chunks



SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A federal judge Friday ordered attorneys for the U.S. Coast Guard and a maritime salvage company to answer detailed questions about plans to remove an overturned cargo ship on the Georgia coast by sawing it into eight enormous chunks.

The salvage firm Donjon-SMIT filed suit Feb. 13 asking the judge to halt removal of the South Korean freighter Golden Ray, which capsized off St. Simons Island on Sept. 8 shortly after leaving the nearby Port of Brunswick with 4,200 automobiles in its cargo decks.

The multi-agency command overseeing the wreck removal hopes to start cutting the ship into sections in April. But Donjon-SMIT says the Coast Guard violated the federal Oil Pollution Act when it allowed the ship's owner to drop the company for a rival salvage firm willing to remove the vessel in larger pieces. Donjon-SMIT's complaint says that plan threatens an “environmental disaster.”

U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday. Indicating there's no time to waste, Wood submitted 45 questions Friday for attorneys on both sides to answer in writing prior to arriving in court.

“This is no ordinary case,” Wood wrote in her order Friday.

In its legal complaint, Donjon-SMIT said in November it presented a plan to the ship's owner, identified in the court filing as GL NV24 Shipping Inc., to remove the ship in sections weighing approximately 600 tons (544 metric tonnes) to allow systematic removal of the cars inside.

The company said the ship's owner rejected its plan and hired another firm, T&T Salvage, willing to remove the vessel in larger chunks of up to 4,100 tons (3,720 metric tonnes). By allowing the switch, it said, the Coast Guard violated the 1990 federal law intended to improve oil spill responses by...

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