Oil recovery efforts continue at Golden Ray shipwreck

BRUNSWICK — Oil recovery efforts near the Golden Ray continued off the coast of Georgia Wednesday as shoreline teams continue to mitigate shoreline impacts.

Wreck removal personnel partially raised Section Six on Wednesday morning. The salvage master paused the lifting operation to allow oil recovery personnel to recover an oil discharge that began to pool inside of retention boom around the section using oil skimmers and a floating vacuum that pumped oil into containment tanks on a nearby work barge. Some oil entrained beyond the Environmental Protection Barrier and about 30 vessels responded. 

For those unfamiliar with the saga of The Golden Ray, it is a cargo ship that capsized off the coast of Georgia in 2019, and has been occupying space in the St. Simons Sound since then. In May a fire broke out on the vessel and was extinguished.

“We are executing very controlled lifts of Section Six in order to recover any oil that discharges from the section without overwhelming our multi-layered mitigation system,” said Incident Commander Chris Graff of Gallagher Marine Systems. “Removing this section will take time and we appreciate the patience and support of the community as we move forward.” 

Lifting operations will be limited to conditions that are safe and favorable for the mitigation of any potential oil discharges. Section Six of the Golden Ray wreck remains connected to the VB-10000. The section will be lifted and stowed onto a dry-dock barge once it is safe to do so.  

About 80 personnel split into several shoreline clean-up teams are using a variety of clean-up techniques to mitigate oiled shorelines along the southern edge of St. Simons Island from Massengale Park to west of Wylie Street public beach access on St. Simons Island and on the northside of Jekyll Island. The teams use techniques from hand tools and bags to collect oiled sand to sphagnum moss and sorbent pads to treat oiled marsh grasses. Beaches remain open to the public and the Department of Health urges beach-goers to remain vigilant.

A wildlife assessment team from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division observed a small number of oiled juvenile Royal terns during a survey of Bird Island on Wednesday. The team did not attempt to recover the terns because they were mobile and did not show signs of injury.

During the same survey, a shoreline assessment team did not observe any signs of oil on the island. Responders will continue to monitor the island for any oil impacts or wildlife impacts, according to St. Simons Sound Incident Response. Wildlife rehabilitation specialists are standing by to treat any oiled wildlife that can be safely recovered.

The assessment teams will continue to survey marsh areas and beaches throughout St. Simons Sound for any potentially impacted shorelines or wildlife impacts. If you encounter any oiled wildlife, do not attempt to capture it and report any sightings of oiled wildlife by calling (800) 261-0980. 

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