Focus on environment as capsized ship remains in St. Simons Sound

4 trapped crew members aboard The Golden Ray rescued Monday

By Corley Peel - Reporter, Ashley Harding - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The South Korean company that owns the cargo ship that capsized off the coast of Georgia says it's grateful to everyone involved in the rescue of four crew members, and crews say their main goal now is monitoring any potential environmental effects from the ship.

An emergency safety zone has been established by the Port of Brunswick in the St. Simons Sound. That means vessels are not allowed with 0.5 miles of The Golden Ray.

The ship is capsized near two popular fishing spots and many oyster beds lie on the coastline. Tim Hanes, a fisherman, watched the ship capsize from the St. Simons Pier.

"All of a sudden, I heard a big old boom and a guy told me the ship was falling over and it came down. The lights went out, fell to the side and it stopped," Hanes said.

All of the crew members were rescued safely. Chris Graff with Marine Systems LLC said the company's incident management team is surveying potential impacts of the capsized ship.

"The unified command is working both on how to mitigate the vessel being on its side and with the potential oil spill that could come from that," Graff said.

Although there are more than 4,000 cars loaded on the ship, Graff believes oil could be coming from the tanks and vents. 

"I'm very surprised it's very little oil that's been coming out, which is great but that doesn't mean we're not prepared," Graff said. "We've been leaning forward with a lot of assets in place, doing some protection strategies, being prepared, planning with the environmental unit on where we can best utilize resources, and it seems to be very good to us so far but that doesn't mean we're out of the woods."

Booms were set up Sunday to protect the water. The Coast Guard said Tuesday there were no leaks from the vessel but a light residual sheen remained.

Salvage crews and divers will need to survey the Golden Ray to figure out the best way to remove it from the water. The company said it won't be an easy task because of the thousands of cars on board, but it's been done before.

Hanes said he hopes the overturned ship won't impact his fishing.

"All I know is, get this thing out of here," Hanes said. "Get things back to normal."

Concerns about the environment were shared by others in the fishing industry, local boaters, tour guides like Richard Shirah. He said he's certain the ship will impact the local seafood industry.

Calvin Collins owns Little Raccoon Key Private Island Tours.

"Now the concerns are what's going to happen to the area. There's a lot of oil and fuel, and a certain type of fuel called sea fuel. It's thick and goes to the bottom. We're all concerned here, in the local tourism business," Collins said. "We are right around the corner from my favorite season oyster season and it could have a devastating impact. Hopefully we are urgently overreacting, and taking it seriously, so we can mitigate it quickly."

He's worried about the redfish, dolphins, and manatees that frequent these waters every day.

Plans for the cleanup are underway, officials said. The Coast Guard said environmental protection experts are responsible for removing the ship. They will determine the best way to protect marine life.

Currently, there is no exact timeframe for when the ship will be removed.

Copyright 2019 by WJXT News4Jax. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.