On September 8, 2019, a cargo ship named “Golden Ray” capsized in St. Simon’s Sound. Brunswick, Georgia, is one of the busiest import and export ports for cars in in the United States. When we drive through the southern part of Brunswick we can see acres and acres of cars waiting to be shipped out or having just been brought in.
The cargo ship “Golden Ray” was owned by Hyundai and was coming up the coast from Jacksonville. It stopped in Brunswick to pick up 4,000 Kia and Hyundai cars bound for delivery in the Middle East. When the cars were loaded, one of the crew forgot to close the cargo hatch. Consequently, when the ship was underway it started to take on water. Noticing that the ship was listing, the pilot boat quickly guided it out of the main shipping channel. In a very short amount of time, the boat was on its side. All 24 crew members were rescued, but the cars and the ship are a total loss. The cargo ship is still on its side between Jekyll and St. Simon’s Island.
This has created a new tourist highlight for visitors to the island. When you go down to the pier, you can’t help but see this giant cargo ship. It is hard, even from a slight distance, to really comprehend how big the cargo ship is. The “Golden Ray” is 656 feet long so it would take up more than two football fields. It is also 116 feet tall and can carry close to 7,000 automobiles.
When the ship first turned over there was a fire on board. Because the ship was just heading out across the Atlantic Ocean, all the gas tanks were full. So far over 300,000 gallons of fuel have been removed from the ship, although there have been oil, gasoline, diesel, and antifreeze leaks into St. Simon’s Sound. Contaminants have been found up and down the tidal areas, although in amounts that are not immediately noticeable.
When the cargo ship first overturned, they tried to find a way to right the ship. They have now given up on that and are working on dismantling the ship in place. The cost of the ship and the vehicles in it amounts to a loss of 160 million dollars. This does not include the environmental remediation the company will have to provide.
Whenever Tom and I go to the pier, to Driftwood Beach on Jekyll, or to Brunswick, we can see the “Golden Ray.” One of the shops by the pier is selling t-shirts with pictures of the overturned ship. Hey, if you are a tourist destination, you take every advantage you have. I think the ship is the most photographed tourist site currently on the island.