Environment

Before Slicing Up Overturned Cargo Ship, An Environmental Barrier Will Be Installed

The Golden Ray capsized as it was leaving Brunswick carrying 4,200 cars.
The Golden Ray capsized as it was leaving Brunswick carrying 4,200 cars.
Credit Stephen B. Morton / Associated Press

Later this week, crews are scheduled to begin building a barrier around the cargo ship that’s been on its side off the coast of Georgia since September. It’s a step towards dismantling the giant wreck and getting it out of the St. Simons Sound.

The Golden Ray capsized as it was leaving Brunswick carrying 4,200 cars. It’s been near the St. Simons Island pier since then, a huge hulk that’s visible even from the mainland.

“I can look across the marsh and see that ship,” said Eddie Lambright, who lives in Brunswick. “Every day, I see it, that thing out there, every day.”

He was at an information session in Brunswick last week, hosted by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and representatives for the ship’s owner. They were there to explain how they plan to remove the ship and those thousands of cars — they hope before the peak of hurricane season this summer.

“We’re doing everything we can to get this out of here as quickly as possible,” said Jim Elliott with T&T, the salvage company that’s doing the work.

Elliott, who was at the Brunswick event, said every wreck is different, but the Golden Ray has unique challenges.

“It’s in one of the most extreme environments on the U.S. East Coast,” he said. “There’s a large tidal fluctuation and a large current, and that makes it more complex.”

Putting in the environmental barrier should take about a month, according to the Coast Guard. The plan is to install a floating boom to soak up oil and mesh netting to catch parts of the ship or cars.

Then T&T will use a chain to slice the cargo ship into massive sections, lift them out of the water and take them away on a barge.

“This is going to be cool,” said Bill Bulfer.

At the information session, he said he had been worried about containing oil spills, but now he thinks that risk is under control.

“I’m into equipment and cranes and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “This is going to be awesome. I’m going to go out in my boat and watch it.”

Last week, a different salvage company filed a lawsuit in federal court. Donjon-SMIT, which was the first company to respond to the Golden Ray, said the plan to slice up the ship is environmentally risky and that, in choosing T&T to do the work, officials violated a federal oil pollution law.

The St. Simons Sound Incident Response Unified Command plans to hold another open house on Friday.

Phil Graitcer contributed to this report.

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