Golden Ray Pilot Praised for Intentionally Grounding the Ship, Preventing an Even Worse Disaster

golden ray salvage
Responders with the unified command reposition boom around the motor vessel Golden Ray Oct. 1, St. Simons Sound, Brunswick, Georgia. The barrier boom is maintained daily due to strong currents in the sound and skimming teams are conducting surface clean-up to recover oil product. Photo: St. Simons Sound Unified Command

Top officials at the Port of Brunswick are commending the U.S. Coast Guard and a Brunswick Bar pilot for their efforts in preventing an even worse disaster after the pure car and truck carrier Golden Ray capsized in St. Simons Sound last month.

At the Brunswick State of the Port address on Wednesday, Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch thanked the U.S. Coast Guard, Brunswick Bar Pilots and port workers for their efforts in the rescuing the crew, the ongoing vessel salvage, and for quickly reopening of the Port of Brunswick following the September 8 incident. 

“The Coast Guard and our Brunswick maritime community came together in an impressive display of teamwork, focused first on the safety of the crew, and now on protecting the natural environment and the safety of vessel operations,” Lynch said. “In only four days, we were able to reopen the port, protecting the livelihoods of our direct employees and thousands of others across the region. On behalf of the Georgia Ports Authority, I would like to thank all those involved in the rescue and salvage operations.” 

During his presentation, Lynch also commended Brunswick Bar pilot, Captain Jonathan Tennant, for his decision to intentionally ground the Golden Ray after the vessel lost stability in the bay. Lynch also noted that Captain Tennant remained on board the vessel during U.S. Coast Guard’s initial rescue of twenty crew members on board.

The Golden Ray was carrying about 4,200 when it lost stability and grounded in St. Simons Bay as the was departing on September 8. Four of the ship’s twenty-four crew members were initially reported missing, but they were later located and rescued after some 30 hours stuck inside the vessel.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said U.S. Coast Guard Commander Norm Witt, of the Marine Safety Unit in Savannah, and Sector Charleston Commanding Officer, Captain John Reed, are also to be commended for the Coast Guard’s quick rescue of the ship’s crew and river pilot, and for their continuing work to restore normal operations at the port, one of the busiest auto ports in the nation.

“I applaud the quick action of the Coast Guard, tugs, maritime engineers and emergency responders in the rescue of the ship’s entire crew and the river pilot on the Golden Ray,” Kemp said. “We all felt tremendous relief as the last sailor was brought to safety. Now that the mission has shifted to recovery, we appreciate the Coast Guard’s efforts to accommodate river traffic while salvagers work to right the vessel and clear the channel. The Port of Brunswick is an important asset to Georgia, supporting employment across an array of industries.”

The Port of Brunswick reported this week that it moved 614,000 units of Roll-on/Roll-off cargo in Fiscal Year 2019 for an increase of 4 percent, or 23,000 units, compared to FY2018. The numbers rank Georgia as the second busiest hub for the import-export of vehicles, machinery and other types of Ro/Ro cargo in the United States.

During his presentation, Mr. Lynch also announced the development of 40-acre dockside parcel that will help grow capacity to 1.5 million Ro/Ro units per year.

As for the Golden Ray, salvage workers this week continued to lighter the vessel, removing over 169,000 gallons of fuel as of Thursday, according to the St. Simons Sound Unified Command. As of the Thursday, the response involved 449 personnel and 71 vessels, with 14,700 feet of containment boom deployed to protect sensitive areas from pollution.