The timeframe to remove the Golden Ray from the St. Simons Sound won’t be measured in days or weeks.
Under the best possible scenario, it will take at least three months to remove the 656-foot cargo ship from the channel. The ship, carrying an estimated 4,200 vehicles, capsized on Sept. 8.
Coast Guard Cmdr. Norm Witt, captain of ports from Brunswick and Savannah, explained the response to the accident Wednesday at the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce meeting.
“This is a pretty significant situation we’re still addressing,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to bring in the right resources.”
Witt said 170 personnel and multiple vessels have been assigned to the unified command tasked with the pollution response, salvage operations and commercial impacts.
Witt said the vessel has more than 300,000 gallons of fuel and each of the vehicles inside the ship have two to three gallons of fuel.
“We have had pollution, and we will have additional pollution,” he said.
Luckily, the shoreline impacts have been minimal, so far.
Witt said the strong tidal currents make it impractical to surround the ship with booms to contain the leaking fuel.
“We’re using booms where it makes sense,” he said.
One of the immediate tasks is to remove as much fuel as possible from the ship and seal fuel vents. Some of the internal fuel tanks may be left alone until later in the salvage operations, he said.
It’s still undetermined how the ship will be removed from the channel. Witt said a team of “world renowned experts” have been assigned to the salvage operations. They are evaluating the condition of the ship to formulate a plan.
The response team understands the importance the Port of Brunswick has to the local, state and national economies, he said.
“There’s a lot of activity out there,” he said.
The goal is to remove the ship without making matters worse by blocking the channel.
“This is a step-by-step methodical process and we want to get it right the first time,” Witt said. “If we can have that ship gone in three months, that would be awesome.”
Chamber members agreed to create talking points so they can accurately discuss the capsized ship during some of the upcoming events such as the RSM Classic and the week of the Georgia-Florida game.