Salvors have removed a bow and stern section from the car carrier wreck in Georgia, US with six sections still to be removed
Salvage of the capsized wreck of car carrier Golden Ray in St Simons Sound, Georgia, US is progressing despite delays due to environmental and technical issues. The bow and stern sections have been removed and are en route for disposal.
US salvors were preparing for the next phase of removing Golden Ray in January and February 2021, by removing sections seven and two. However, preparations have been affected by equipment wear, chain link failures, and with diving operations restricted due to weather and currents during the northern hemisphere winter months.
Unified Command (UC) said on 7 February that responders had paused operations to conduct maintenance on the cutting apparatus. During a routine inspection they discovered wear on the wires used to cycle the cutting equipment.
Technicians will unreeve the blocks and replace the worn wires. Technical experts estimate a two to four day pause to complete the maintenance work.
“Safety is the most important aspect of operations,” says US Coast Guard Commander Efren Lopez, who is the federal on-scene co-ordinator, “Pausing to maintain the cutting apparatus ensures continued safety of our responders and the public. At the same time, our wreck removal experts will continue to advance work on subsequent sections to facilitate their safe and timely removal and transport out of St Simons Sound.”
Heavy lift vessel VB-10000 is being used to cut and lift the wreck sections before they are removed on barges and sent for recycling. Section one and the bow were successfully removed in Q4 2020. Salvors then cut and removed section eight, the stern of Golden Ray.
Following its removal, section eight was set on board Barge 455-8 at Mayors Point Terminal in Brunswick, Georgia and transported to the recycling facility in Gibson, Louisiana, with assistance from tug Kurt J Crosby.
St Simons Sound Incident Unified Command is managing the whole project, the environmental protection around the wreck and any leaked oil and debris clean up.
Once sections of the wreck are cut and removed from the site, they will be loaded on to four drydock barges for transit to the Louisiana recycling facility. As of early February, two of these drydock barges had arrived at the response staging site on the East River in Brunswick, assisted by tug Crosby Star.
All four will be used to transit sections three, four, five and six of the wreck. Barge 455-7 stands by to receive section seven once separated from the wreck. Then Barge Julie B will return to receive section two prior to removing the inner sections. Barge Julie B had transited to Gibson in January with the first bow section for its recycling.
Earlier, UC approved a weight-shedding plan to reduce the mass of section two prior to its removal using a Fuchs material-handling machine with a claw attachment to safely grab and remove vehicles and large debris from the exposed side of section two.
Responders will stow removed debris on a containment barge directly adjacent to the section during the operation. Divers drilled drainage holes along section two on 7 February to allow water and sediment to escape as the section is lifted out of the water, reducing its load.
Prior to 7 February, salvors conducted the third cut through the Golden Ray hull, but this was interrupted when a cutting chain joining link, used to connect the chain to the rigging’s pulley system, failed and the chain fell into the cutting groove in the wreck’s topsides. No injuries occurred during this dynamic evolution, and no other equipment was damaged.
Technicians retrieved the chain and reattached it to the cutting apparatus, and the work resumed on 4 February. Response engineers estimate that the third cut is about 50% complete.
UC has set up a 138-m safety zone around the environmental protection barrier, increased to 180 m for recreational vessels. Commanders have advised mariners to steer clear of this perimeter. Any unauthorised use of unmanned aerial vehicles around the wreck site is prohibited.
Responders continue to monitor and respond to oil sheens in the vicinity of the Golden Ray wreck site and recover debris on the water and along the shoreline.
The response environmental unit continues to collect water samples in the vicinity of the wreck site in accordance with a water quality sampling plan.
A variety of utility vessels and specialised equipment is being applied to mitigate pollution including trawlers to tow Current Busters during an on-water pollution response and containment drill outside the environmental protection barrier.
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