Crews clean up oil leaking from remains of Georgia shipwreck


ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — Crews on the water and nearby beaches are cleaning up oil leaking from the remains of an overturned cargo ship being dismantled along the coast of Georgia.

Responders began mopping up oil from the shipwreck Monday and were still finding some sheen on the water Wednesday as well as small oil globules on the sandy shores of St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes, a spokesman for the multiagency command overseeing the demolition.

“We’re looking for these kinds of impacts every day,” Himes said. “Most of the time we don’t find them. But when we do, that’s why we’ve got the equipment and personnel on hand” to respond.

The Golden Ray, a South Korean automobile carrier, capsized on Sept, 8, 2019, shortly after leaving the Port of Brunswick. Demolition work to remove the shipwreck in eight giant chunks began in November. Roughly half the ship remains partially submerged off St. Simons Island.

Most of the fuel onboard the ship was siphoned from its tanks long before demolition began. Himes said engineers suspect the oil leaks first spotted Monday came from residue that had been clinging to the inside of severed pipes in the submerged part of the wreck.

Some of the oil escaped an environmental protection barrier surrounding the shipwreck. Workers in 15 boats cleaned up oil and sheen from the water using absorbent boom, Himes said.

On the shoreline, responders used shovels to scoop up oil globules and surrounding sand.

Fletcher Sams of the Altamaha Riverkeeper conservation group said the leak showed the limited ability of the floating barrier around the wreck to contain oil amid the tidal currents in the sound.

“We’ve got a lot of sheen outside the barrier,” Sams told The Brunswick News. He said the barrier’s boom “does have some effect to slow some of this down, but as evidenced today it is definitely not foolproof.”

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