golden ray oil spill

Multiple shoreline clean-up teams deploy multiple treatments to oiled marsh grass and sands near Wylie Street public beach access on August 2, 2021. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

Golden Ray Lifting Paused for Oil Spill Clean-Up

Mike Schuler
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August 4, 2021

Work to lift the latest section of the Golden Ray has been put on hold as responders continue to clean-up an oil spill that was first reported at the site on Saturday.

Officials expect several more days of clean-up operations and local health officials are urging beach-goers to be vigilant.

An update from the Incident Response said managers and the Salvage master paused lifting operations on the section on Monday morning after a fresh discharge.

The initial oil spill occurred Saturday during weight-shedding operations on Section Six, which was separated from the wreck on Friday but remains in place and still connected to the VB-10000.

Despite mitigation efforts inside the Environmental Protection Barrier, an unspecified amount of oil escaped the barrier and has since washed up on nearby beaches and marshes. Approximately 30 response vessels equipped with sorbents and towing Current Busters attempted to recover as much of the oil as possible.

Photos from Monday showed a fresh oil discharge pooled within retention boom around the wreck.

A MARCO oil skimmer vessel attaches to retention boom around the remainder of the Golden Ray wreck in order to remove oil retained inside the boom on Monday. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo

Since Saturday, response operations have had to be paused almost daily due to severe weather.

Approximately 70 personnel split into several shoreline clean-up teams have been working to mitigate oiled shorelines along the south end of St. Simons Island since the discharge. Meanwhile, shoreline and wildlife assessment teams continue to survey marsh areas and beaches throughout St. Simons Sound for any potentially impacted shorelines or wildlife impacts.

The latest update from the St. Simons Sound Incident Response said lifting operations will be limited to conditions favorable for the mitigation of any potential oil spill. The section will be lifted and stowed onto a dry-dock barge once it is safe to do so.

The latest oil discharges come after a similar incident in early July.

The National Transportation Safety Board last week opened the public docket for its ongoing investigation into the capsizing of the vehicle carrier back in 2019. The 656-foot Golden Ray had a pilot and 23 crew members on board when it capsized suddenly during a turn as it departed the Port of Brunswick on September 8, 2019, and came to rest on a sand bar. All crew members and the pilot were rescued, including four crew members stuck in the engine room for more than a day following the capsizing.

Wreck removal involves cutting the wreck into eight sections for removal by barge. With the Section Six completed, one cut and two sections remain.

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