Unified Command: Golden Ray Oil Leak Stopped

From the St Simons Sound Incident Response Team:

St. Simons Sound Incident Response

UPDATE: Responders contain source of oil discharges

BRUNSWICK, Ga. - Responders contained the source of oil discharges from Section Six of the Golden Ray wreck on Friday. Wreck removal personnel began preparing the section on Sunday for weight-shedding operations this week.


Wreck removal personnel capped a venting pipe after it was raised above the waterline during a partial lifting operation of Section Six of the Golden Ray wreck on Friday. The submerged vent was very likely the source of the oil discharges during lifting operations which started on July 31. The venting pipe connected to two tanks which had fuel removed during fuel lightering operations in October 2019. Since securing the vent, pollution observers report minimal amounts of oil around the section. Pollution mitigation teams will continue to monitor the section for any potential oil discharges and oil recovery vessels remain on-station 24-hours. 

The VB-10000 began to shift on Sunday into a position to allow for a weight-shedding team to remove vehicles and any moveable decks from the section as required to reduce its overall weight. The section will be lifted and stowed onto a dry-dock barge once it is safe to do so. 

“The training and preparation of the shoreline and on-water response teams showed in their rapid response to oil-impacts from Section Six,” said State On-scene Coordinator John Maddox of the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, “we encourage the public to continue to remain vigilant when fishing, swimming or accessing the beaches until removal of the wreck is completed.”

Approximately 30 pollution response vessels remain at the wreck site to monitor for and mitigate any oil.

The 150-yard safety zone around the EPB is increased to 200 yards for any non-response vessel not transiting inside the shipping channel. The Unified Command (UC) advises mariners to please steer clear of the perimeter to ensure the safety of our responders and the public. Any unauthorized usage of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs) around the wreck site and near response facilities is discouraged due to safety. UAVs are distractions that can lead to near misses, mishaps and injuries. Responders will report any sightings of drones and drone operators to local authorities.


Wildlife rehabilitation specialists safely recovered 20 oiled juvenile Royal terns from Bird Island on Saturday and transported them to a rehabilitation center in South Carolina for further treatment. The terns were observed during a survey on Wednesday by wildlife experts from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division and Natural Resource Advisors with the response. A laughing gull was released near Jekyll Island fishing pier on Sunday after rehabilitation at a wildlife center in South Carolina last week. Wildlife assessment teams continue to survey marsh areas and beaches throughout St. Simons Sound for any potential wildlife impacts. If you encounter any oiled wildlife, do not attempt to capture it and report any sightings of oiled wildlife by calling (800) 261-0980.

Approximately 80 personnel split into several shoreline clean-up teams are using various clean-up techniques to mitigate oiled shorelines along the southern edge of St. Simons Island from Gould’s Inlet to west of Wylie Street public beach access on St. Simons Island and on the northside of Jekyll Island. The teams use a variety of techniques from hand tools and bags to collect oiled sand to sphagnum moss and sorbent pads to treat oiled marsh grasses. Shoreline assessment teams continue to survey beaches and shorelines for any additional impacts. If you encounter residual oil on the shoreline or in the water, please call the National Response Center hotline at (800) 424-8802. 

Beaches remain open to the public and the Department of Health urges beach-goers to remain vigilant.For current beach and fishing safety information, please visit the Georgia Coast Health District website at theGeorgia Coast Health District website.

Survey teams continue to recover debris along shorelines and from marsh areas in the vicinity of the wreck site. All debris is sorted, catalogued and disposed of according to the response debris plan. If you encounter what you believe is debris from the Golden Ray wreck, please do not handle the debris. Call the Debris Reporting Hotline at (912) 944-5620. Responders evaluate each report, survey the vicinity and recover any shipwreck debris in addition to their daily surveys of the water and the shoreline.

On-water response teams maintain a 24-hour watch around the Golden Ray and they deploy pre-staged equipment and personnel to mitigate any oil discharges, sheens and debris observed. To learn more about the response on-water oil recovery program, watch this videoSubject Matter Expert Overview – On-Water Oil Recovery Operations

Safety personnel continue to measure air quality in the community using stationary and mobile air monitoring equipment. Community air quality analysis and water sample analysis continues to confirm no exceedances of air and water quality standards. To learn more about the Air and Water quality monitoring program, watch this videoSubject Matter Expert Overview – Air and Water Quality Monitoring 

The Unified Command (UC) developed a multi-layer approach for observing, surveying, documenting and mitigating any releases of oil or debris during cutting and lifting operations. Recovery personnel are on-station at the Environmental Protection Barrier, at the shoreline and on the water around the Golden Ray shipwreck. Responders are maintaining protective boom at sensitive locations around St. Simons Sound.

The St. Simons Sound Incident Unified Command is the official source of information for the Golden Ray wreck removal and response operations.

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