Clean-up crews are still working tirelessly to prevent oil leaks from the Golden Ray, a ro-ro ship that capsized off the coast of Georgia nearly two years ago.
The leak began about a week ago after workers dismantled a section of the Golden Ray. The tide swept the oil spilled from the wreck under an environmental barrier that was put in place around the half-submerged ship.
Michael Himes, spokesperson for St. Simons Sound Incident Unified Command, said on Friday oil was leaking from the wreckage.
“The number one priority is to contain [oil] dumps, ”Himes told FreightWaves.
The St. Simons Sound Incident Unified Command is the multi-agency group responsible for the removal of the Golden Ray from St. Simons Sound. The ro-ro vessel capsized on September 8, 2019 in the Strait after leaving the port of Brunswick, Georgia.
The United Command dismantled and removed five pieces from the ship, but the sixth piece began to leak oil as crews attempted to pull it out of the water.
Teams were unable to determine the exact source of the leak. The Golden Ray was carrying 4,200 vehicles when it capsized.
“The other part of the lifting procedure is to control the source of the discharge,” Himes said. “With each lift, we were able to raise the section a bit before a discharge occurred. “
The ship also had a crew of 24, including 23 crew members and a pilot. All of the crew survived.
Navy officials said the capsizing was due to unstable ballast levels not meeting stability regulations, according to modeling conducted by the US Coast Guard.
The oil spill comes two months after the wreck of the Golden Ray caught fire, causing a further delay.
Himes said response vessels continue to retrieve oil from the St. Simons Strait, while coastal crews continue to remove oily sand from nearby beaches.
“Every day we remove at least between 1,000 and 1,500 bags of oily sand,” Himes said.
Oily water is collected by several methods, such as oil spill containment booms, oil skimmers and floating oil vacuums.
“In sound, we have the containment boom. The oil builds up, then we use Marco skimmers and a vacuum cleaner. All of these strategies collect a good amount of water, but they also collect oil at the same time, ”Himes said.
The cleanup will continue over the weekend ashore and in the sound.
“We are doing a significant amount of shoreline cleanup and treatment, particularly on the west and southwest side of St. Simons Island where an area of shoreline and swamp grasses has been affected,” Himes said.
Himes said the Unified Command is planning scenarios like this.
“That’s why we put this infrastructure there, before we started removing the wreckage. When you combine the complexity of retrieving a vessel and having such a vibrant waterway, combine these factors with our response priorities – ensuring the safety of people, the community and our first responders, while minimizing impacts on the environment and maintaining a functioning canal vessel – what we get is a process that is essentially time consuming, ”said Himes.
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