BRUNSWICK — A cargo ship that capsized off the Georgia coast could remain in the sea for the next year.
That’s the long-range outlook of Coast Guard Cmdr. Matt Baer, a member of the Unified Command tasked with removing the ship that capsized in September.
Baer says the Golden Ray has been slowly sinking in the sand because of the powerful tides. He said the situation makes it impossible to get the ship upright without breaking it apart and creating an even bigger problem.
“It’s going to be a while. We want to do this right,” he said.
Baer made the comments at a recent meeting of the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce, The Brunswick News reported.
The Golden Ray capsized soon after it departed the Port of Brunswick, about 70 miles (112 kilometers) south of Savannah. The ship's pilot and 23 crew members were all safely rescued, including four men trapped for 36 hours before they could be extracted through a hole drilled into the hull.
A plan to dismantle the ship and remove an estimated 4,200 vehicles is still being developed.
One step that helped: Large rocks were dumped around the ship to keep it from shifting during incoming and outgoing tides. The rate of sinking into the sand has been slowed considerably by the rocks, Baer said.
The Brunswick newspaper reports that divers have been going inside the capsized vessel to remove oil and other possible contaminants that could pollute area waterways.
Baer estimated about 29 miles (47 kilometers) of coastline have been impacted from oil and fuel that has leaked from the ship.
Thus far, the unified command has received between 40 and 50 reports from citizens about possible pollutants from the ship. Baer said the unified command responds to every report or complaint.
“We welcome citizens reporting what they find,” he said.