Crews say it could take months to clean up capsized cargo ship in St. Simons Sound

Crews say it could take months to clean up capsized cargo ship in St. Simons Sound

St. Simons Sound, Ga. (WTOC) - The massive ship in the St. Simons Sound has been on its side and sitting in the water for more than 50 days.

The Unified Command is in charge of clean up operations. The command consists of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Gallagher Marine Systems.

Images of inside the Golden Ray were released on Friday. Unified Command used laser technology to get a 3-D image of the damage inside the cargo bays, where hundreds of cars were being transported.

At first, crews thought they could upright the ship. Now they say over the course of the next couple of months they’ll have to take it apart piece by piece.

Crews are trying to address the erosion that the ship has caused. It’s been laying on its side in the middle of tidal shifts.

“We have a current that goes in and out two times a day. We have an 8 to 9-foot tidal difference this water is getting pushed further up and out of our sound,” said Sue Inman, Altamaha Riverkeeper.

Unified Command is now trying to add a blanket of rocks underneath the boat to have more support. Unified command reiterated that this timeline is not short. It could take months, even up to a year to completely correct.

“With the vessel on its side there is some stresses on the structure of the vessel as the erosion increases, it kind of increases the forces on certain areas of the ship so we want to slow the erosion down if at possible to slow those stresses on the ship’s structure as well,” said Commander Norm Witt, Federal On Scene Coordinator for the U.S. Coast Guard.

The investigation into how the ship turned over is still ongoing and completely separate from this massive response.

Chartermen say they are already seeing economic impacts from the capsized Golden Ray. People are canceling fishing trips and fishermen are going out to farther places.

“They don’t like to be told this is just a small leak or a small impact, because to them to this community it’s just another blow to them,” said Inman.

These response efforts to mitigate environmental impact, assess and stabilize the ship take hundreds of crew members. Gallagher Marine Systems is representing Hyundai Glovis in the emergency response. By law, they’ll completely front the cleanup bill and damages 100 percent, but how much that will total, they still don’t know.

“There’s a lot of people involved and it’s not over yet so to give you number would be premature,” said Chris Graff, Responsible Party with Gallagher Marine Systems.

As crews continue to focus on their new plan to take apart the ship, they are still pumping fuel off the ship. There’s almost 300,000 gallons according to Unified Command. Of that, they’ll actually be able to reuse most of it that hasn’t been contaminated by water. Georgia DNR also continues environmental efforts in what they call moderate impacts.

“We do have some reports of some lightly oiled birds. There has been some banding on the marsh grass and we do have some tarballs, which is weathered oil coming up on shore,” said Eric Dykes, State on Scene Coordinator with Georgia DNR.

Georgia DNR says despite these impacts all water testing at 22 water sites are in the clear.

Report any impacted wildlife to 1-800-261-0980.

Report any sightings of oil to the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

For more information on fisheries advisories, visit the Coastal Health District website. Report any impacted fisheries to DNR at 1-912-264-7218.

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