Perhaps nobody is happier that the Brunswick shipping channel has reopened than the 600 longshoremen of ILA Local 1423 who had been idle for more than two weeks, first because of Hurricane Dorian and then from the capsizing of the Golden Ray.
Local President Richard Nixon said it had been a hardship for those who load and unload the big ships that call on the Port of Brunswick.
“We’re excited about the restart. We have 600 people ready to go to work anytime. Anytime, they’re always ready,’’ he said.
When ships arrive between midnight and dawn, ILA Local 1423 members are there to work them.
Because of the nature of the work, union members don’t have a backup.
“This is all we do,’’ Nixon said.
Although the ships weren’t coming, the bills were, but Nixon said he reminded the members it could have been worse.
“Like I told my guys at the local, the storm was supposed to come right into Brunswick, but God chose otherwise,’’ he said.
Nixon said he was also grateful that no lives were lost in the capsize and that most of the crew was rescued quickly from the Golden Ray.
There was more at stake for many workers than their hourly pay.
Some newer members who were close to qualifying for health and dental insurance had a setback, Nixon said.
To qualify, union members must amass a minimum numbers of hours to achieve seniority and those already covered must maintain hours to continue their coverage and qualify for vacation pay, Nixon said.
“Sometimes, we might get two or three days off,’’ he said of the pace of work, but never a stretch as along as two weeks.
“We’d been very busy here lately... We’re hoping the work will pick up so they can make their seniority,’’ Nixon said.
The only new news on the Golden Ray on Friday was that the Unified Command is keeping a close eye on a potential tropical storm developing off the Bahamas.
“Our priority right now is the safety of the responders, the recovery of any contaminants that have entered the water and the securing of the vessel in advance of the storm,” said Chris Graff, Incident Commander with Gallagher Marine Systems, who is a part of the Unified Command along with the Coast Guard and the state Department of Natural Resources.
As of Friday night, the storm was not expected to make landfall in the Golden Isles. Heavy rains and coastal flooding are possible for the Isles over the weekend from the storm.