ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – The Golden Ray will be disassembled in place after maritime experts have determined it is not possible to safely right and refloat the vessel in a fully intact condition, according to a news release from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
On Saturday, Unified Command announced they are developing plans to remove all of the M/V Golden Ray's hull, components and cargo in an incident response update.
Currently, there is no expected timeline, but that will be shared with the public when one is available.
The Unified Command is continuing pollution mitigation throughout the duration of the removal operation. It has completed the lightening of the forward fuel oil tanks onboard the Golden Ray, according to the release. More than 225,000 gallons have been removed as of Saturday.
Specialists from the Unified Command are conducting water monitoring at 22 sites under a long-term plan. The Georgia Department of Health has issued a swimming and fishing advisory.
News4Jax maritime expert Rod Sullivan said cutting into the ship to disassemble it exposes dirty tanks to seawater and the outside environment and, in his opinion, this poses a greater threat to the environment than righting the ship in place.
"I'm actually disappointed because it's actually a very environmentally hazardous operation to disassemble a ship that's formerly loaded with the fuel oil, gas ethylene and lube oil," Sullivan said. "By the same token, the people that have been hired to do this salvage are some of the best in the world, and I'm hesitant to second-guess them."
Sullivan said it's going to be an extremely long and labor-intensive process to cut up a ship that size into small enough pieces to remove.
Sullivan explained why he thinks Unified Command chose to go this route: "I think the primary reason they're going to have to disassemble it is because the way the ship is laying. The keel is pointed towards the shore. The top of the vessel is pointed towards the channel, and it's not easy to roll it into an upright position in that way, and therefore, I think they have decided that disassembly is the best way to go."
For more public health information and advisories, visit the Georgia Department of Health website or call 844-863-0325.
Anyone who sees oil should not touch it or attempt to rescue oiled birds or wildlife. Instead, any oil sightings should be reported to 800-424-8802 and any oiled wildlife should be reported to 800-261-0980.