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Oconee Joe: Wreck of the Golden Ray; environmental hazard containment efforts underway.

Updated: Sep 14, 2019

By Oconee Joe

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA – A disabled cargo vessel named Golden

Ray capsized in Saint Simons Sound early the morning of Sept. 8 between the southern tip St. Simons Island, and the northern end of Jekyll Island.

The 656-foot long, 71,00- ton cargo vessel was transporting approximately 4,200 automotive vehicles to Baltimore. The U.S. Coast Guard reporting that there is likely up to 300,000 thousand gallons of fuel on board.

The hull of the capsized Golden Ray cargo ship, with Driftwood Beach in the foreground and Jekyll Island in the background.

It appears it was leaking from one of the vents on deck which officials now believe to have closed.

Over the course of the first 36 hours all 23 crewmen plus the harbor pilot were

safely rescued by the joint efforts of first responders and specialized

recovery teams consisting of local, state, federal, and private organizations.

From the Village at Mallory Street on St. Simons, to the turtle rehabilitation center and the fishing pier at Driftwood Beach on Jekyll,

the battle to preserve the Golden Isles’ marine estuary has now become the main hope murmured throughout the taverns, restaurants, shops and marinas. A half-mile safety zone has been established prohibiting non-authorized vessels from approaching the capsized vessel. Currently there are 12 vessels and 179 responders supporting the response. A long-term salvage plan for the Golden

Ray is currently being developed.

“The development of a salvage plan will take time and is something we must get right the first time” said U.S Coast Guard Commander and scene coordinator Norm Wit.

Environmental Impact

Oil Booms being deployed around the capsized Sea Ray cargo ship.

Within the first 48 hours of the Golden Ray capsizing, minor sheening from escaped diesel fuel was detected in the waters along the north bank of the Brunswick River and Bird Island. Response teams were dispatched to minimize further environmental impacts.

According to conversations with Sue Inman, coastkeeper for the Altamaha Riverkeeper, there are approximately 8,000 breeding pairs of royal terns that currently nest on Bird Island, in addition to tens of thousands of other species of marine and migratory waterfowl. Approximately 1,200 feet of oil containment boom has been deployed near the Golden Ray and another 3,100 feet of boom is along the marshy shore of Bird Island.

Due to the strong tides in Saint Simons Sound the crews are having a hard time keeping the oil booms in place around the vessel.

Economic Impact

Commercial traffic in and out of the Port of Brunswick resumed on a case by case basis on Sept. 12. With the assistance and support of Moran Towing, the Brunswick Harbor Pilots Association, the U.S. Coast Guard, and various supporting agencies and vessels, six cargo vessels transited the channel and maneuvered around the capsized cargo vessel that still rests on her port side in Saint Simons Sound.

Oconee Joe has lived along the Oconee River for over 10,000 years. The River is his Mother, the Land his Father. You can continue to read about Oconee Joe, guided trips, and his explorations along our local river, here at Classic City News.

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