Environment, News

Oil Escapes From Golden Ray Wreck Near Brunswick

An aerial photo of Golden Ray shipwreck site off the Georgia coast.
An aerial photo of Golden Ray shipwreck site off the Georgia coast.
Credit St. Simons Sound Incident response photo
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Responders are cleaning up oil that spilled from the Golden Ray, the cargo ship that’s been stuck on the Georgia coast for more than a year and a half.

That’s after the wreck caught fire last month, and the removal process overall has taken much longer than expected.

The Golden Ray overturned in September 2019 as it was leaving the Port of Brunswick with 4,200 cars on board. It’s remained on its side near St. Simons Island since then.

Most of the oil was removed from the ship early on, and there is always equipment set up to catch oil that comes from the wreck. But Tuesday morning, officials saw that more oil had escaped from the barrier set up around the wreck.

“Our aerial observation team was able to visually confirm what looked like ribbons of dark brown oil sheen,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Michael Himes, a spokesman for the wreck response efforts.

More than a dozen boats with equipment to soak up oil went out on the water, and crews put out additional gear near the shore, too, Himes said.

Fletcher Sams, director of the environmental group Altamaha Riverkeeper, said the amount of oil that got out this week isn’t a major disaster, but just another one of the problems that’s come up as the removal process drags on.

“When you’re talking originally about a roughly 90- to 120-day period that it would be open to the environment and polluting, and then that turns into closer to 400 days, that’s just that much more pollution that’s entering the waterways,” he said.

The car carrier — and the thousands of cars inside of it — has been partially removed from the St. Simons Sound.

The process was delayed by the pandemic, and cutting and removing the ship has taken much longer than officials had initially thought it would; they had initially hoped to remove the wreck before the start of the 2020 hurricane season. The wreck weathered that season and will have to weather another one.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially began Tuesday.