The Golden Ray capsized in the main channel leading to the Port of Brunswick, south of Savannah, GA, on Sept. 8.
Most of the 23-strong crew escaped but four were trapped below decks in the engine room. Rescuers heard knocking from inside the ship and the US Coast Guard and salvage experts rescued the last four people trapped aboard the ship, operated by Hyundai Glovis.
According to thedetroitbureau.com, Norm Witt, commanding officer at Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Savannah, told reporters that getting the 656-foot ship out of channel would be a major challenge.
"This is a complex case," Witt said. "We have salvage to deal with on a large vessel. We have pollution mitigation efforts ongoing and some waterways and port operations issues, as well."
The full operation of securing and removing the Golden Ray could take months.
The Port of Brunswick, about 70 miles south of Savannah, is the second-busiest vehicle port in the country after Long Beach in Southern California, which has traditionally been the destination for vehicles exported from East Asia.
The widening of the Panama Canal and an aggressive sales campaign by officials in the southeastern United States, who promote their ports are less expensive than ports on the west coast, have increased the competition, the report said.
The ship is relatively new, launched in 2017.
Thedetroitbureau.com said experts speculated one of the ship's roll-on, roll-off doors wasn't secured properly, causing the vessel to take on water suddenly in its main cargo compartments.
The US incident brings to mind the car carrier which left the UK automobile export port of Southampton early in 2015 and developed a severe list - though that ship did not capsize. It was subsequently returned to port and its damaged cargo offloaded.
Back in 2006, Mazda had to scrap all 4,703 US- and Canada-bound vehicles from the car-carrying vessel, Cougar Ace, which nearly capsized off the Aleutian Islands, located in Alaska, in late July.