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Divers remove oil, fuel from capsized Golden Ray cargo ship in St. Simons Sound; Boaters warned to avoid area

The Golden Ray Cargo Ship has been lying off the coast of Georgia since it capsized in early September.

SAINT SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — The massive cargo ship that overturned in the St. Simons Sound won't be leaving the water anytime soon. Crews recently removed the propeller and giant rudder from the ship.

The Golden Ray cargo ship has been lying off the coast of Georgia since it capsized in early September. Environmental impact was evident in the days that followed, but can’t be fully determined until after the ship is removed.

Dr. Quinton White, the executive director of the Marine Science Research Institute at Jacksonville University, says hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel and oil has since been removed from the ship, including the gas in the tanks of thousands of vehicles that are still inside the ship.

"When a ship like that turns over in those circumstances, it’s extremely difficult to get it righted," he said. 

Dr. White says divers were sent in to remove the fuel and oil through holes in the ship. The vehicles are a total loss. He says the entire process is a delicate one that most likely won't be completed within 2020.

RELATED: 320,000 gallons of oil, water removed from cargo ship Golden Ray

"It will take at least another year or more to complete," he said. 

Mother nature will also take its toll on the ship the longer it’s in the sound. White says salt water is extremely corrosive. 

He strongly urges people to steer clear of the water surrounding the ship, especially boaters, since waves from boats can cause a negative impact on the ship and on the crews trying to bring parts of it back to shore. 

Response teams say they've removed the cargo, but there are still 4,000 damaged vehicles on board that are making the process even more difficult, but the Coast Guard and Georgia Department of Natural Resources are working as "diligently" as possible.