GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. – The St. Simons Sound Incident Response Unified Command has released new photos showing a big step in the removal process of the 656-vehicle transport vessel that has been sitting on its side since Sept. 8.
Crews said the removal of the rudder and propeller from the Golden Ray has been completed, but weather impacted and halted work at times during that process last week.
Four months after the Golden Ray overturned in the St. Simons Sound, News4Jax checked in with Sue Inman with the Altamaha Riverkeeper, a grassroots organization dedicated to the protection, defense and restoration of Georgia’s biggest river, the Altamaha.
"The next step is actually just getting it out piece by piece we have to remember that there still cars inside," Inman said.
There are currently more than 4,200 cars in the vessel. Inman said it’s a good start, but there is a lot of work to still be done.
The rudder and propeller weighed 130 tons. The removal of those two massive pieces will help reduce the stress to the hull of the wreck. According to the Unified Command, portions of the ship’s rudder and propeller are being donated to the state of Georgia for use as artificial reefs.
“Our Georgia reefs really do need a little extra structure out there, so any of the pieces that aren’t contaminated with oil or gas would be an opportunity for us in Georgia,” Inman said.
The removal of the rudder and propeller comes after divers and other workers removed more than 320,000 gallons of oil mixed with water aboard the vessel.
Inman said weather halted operations last week.
“When you have high winds, you can’t have a tall crane on the mainland. That’s dangerous. But now imagine that on a barge over on the ship and in the channel -- it’s just highly dangerous,” Inman said.
Inman told News4Jax she has heard that around a half-dozen companies have been placing bids for the removal process.
In October, Georgia Department of Natural Resources said that maritime experts determined the Golden Ray will be disassembled in place because it’s not possible to safely right and refloat it in a full, intact condition.
“As long as that boat sits in the water, the more problems it has, so we’re still concerned. The citizens are still concerned. It’s good that we don’t have any more contaminants currently leaking,” Inman said.
It’s a complex process. At this time, News4Jax does not have a timeline on when the ship will be completely out of the St. Simons Sound.