Environment, News

Lawsuit Over Capsized Cargo Ship Gets A Hearing This Week

In a lawsuit filed in federal court, Donjon-SMIT claims that another company’s plan to remove the ship is environmentally risky.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court, Donjon-SMIT claims that another company’s plan to remove the ship is environmentally risky.
Credit Stephen B. Morton / Associated Press
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A lawsuit over the capsized cargo ship off the coast of Georgia is scheduled to get a hearing Tuesday. It pits the U.S. Coast Guard against a company that was working to clean up the wreck.

When the Golden Ray capsized in September, salvage company Donjon-SMIT helped rescue crew members who were trapped on board and got a lot of the ship’s fuel off of it.

But a different company, T&T, got the contract to actually remove the wreck.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court, Donjon-SMIT claims that T&T’s plan to remove the ship is environmentally risky. Donjon-SMIT had recommended a different approach. It also claims that giving the contract to T&T is a violation of federal oil pollution law.

Martin Davies, director of the Maritime Law Center at Tulane Law School, who’s not involved in the case, said the suit is also about business.

“Donjon-SMIT says — with some justification, I think — that ‘We’ve done a great job so far, and now you’re taking away one of the most lucrative parts of this entire operation and giving it to someone else,’” he said.

If the court doesn’t intervene, in about a month, the new contractor plans to start slicing the Golden Ray into giant pieces and barging them away.