• Longshoremen worried about paychecks and benefits with Port of Brunswick closure

    By: Lorena Inclan , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    Brunswick, Ga. - It's now been four days since the Port of Brunswick had to be shut down after the Golden Ray capsized in St. Simons Sound.

    The impact of that is sending ripple effects through the city of Brunswick whose economy depends heavily on transportation.


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     The problem exacerbates the effects of Hurricane Dorian causing the shut down of the port last week, only for it to reopen and be shut down again because of the mishap.

    It was a busy Wednesday at the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1423 where dockworkers gathered for an emergency meeting

    The Action News Jax camera wasn't allowed in, but union Vice President Kenny Thorpe spoke with us afterward.

    "A lot of people are concerned how soon are we going to be back at work and how long it's going to take for them to get back to work," said Thorpe.

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    If you don't work, you don't get paid, but it gets even more complicated for some workers who are trying to get certain qualifications.

    "The individuals that's about to qualify to make their 700 hours, got to the end of this month," said Thorpe.

    Many are worried they won't make their hours, and if they don't, it could cost them their benefits.

    "Which is your health insurance. That's what most all of us work for," said Thorpe.

    "People's livelihoods are at stake," said Lorena Inclán.

    "Yes, they are," said Thorpe.

    And that's not all. If longshoremen are not moving cars, then those who process cars at Colonel's Island are also at a standstill.

    "It's impacting the whole city," said Thorpe.

    RELATED: Spilled fuel from capsized cargo ship threatens St. Simons Island ecosystem | Glynn County locals in disbelief over overturned cargo ship | 4 trapped crew members rescued from cargo ship flipped on side off St. Simons Island

    Thorpe said no vessels have been diverted to other ports. That's good news for longshoremen because it means the business will stay in Brunswick.

    According to Forbes, the Port of Brunswick is one of the most productive ports on the East Coast and sixth busiest automobile port in the U.S.

    Thorpe also wanted to clarify rumors concerning how the Golden Ray was loaded. Some of his union's members were involved in loading the vessel.

    "Being that our port was the last port of call, everybody looking as if we loaded something wrong. All we loaded was 250-something cars and discharged 350-something," said Thorpe. "That little bit of cars didn't have anything to impact what had happened."

    The Coast Guard has not yet said what caused the capsizing, which remains under investigation.

    The Coast Guard did allow two vessels to navigate through the channel in a monitored transit.

    Thorpe says longshoremen will return to the port Thursday at noon to work on another two vessels.

    The Coast Guard will monitor the transits to see how they affect the Golden Ray before deciding whether to fully open the channel to marine traffic.

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