Salvors in the US are protecting the environment and cleaning up pollution from the Golden Ray car carrier wreck site
Salvors in the US are protecting the environment and cleaning up pollution from the Golden Ray car carrier wreck site. They have deployed pollution control booms around the wreck removal project in St Simons Sound, Georgia and regularly use a flotilla of vessels to remove oil sheens within the safety area.
Unified Command of the project set up a 138-m zone around the wreck for safety and deployed an ocean boom around the environmental protection barrier (EPB) alongside high-density polyethylene pipe to contain any oil and debris at the surface of the water inside the EPB.
Response vessels have deployed sorbent boom outriggers during routine pollution monitoring and recovery operations around the site. Vessels are outfitted with equipment to respond dynamically to any sight of oil or debris, and responders continue to recover oil sheens and debris on the water around the wreck site.
Unified Command developed a multi-layer approach for observing, surveying, documenting and mitigating releases of oil or debris during cutting and lifting operations. Recovery personnel are on-station at the EPB, at the shoreline and on the water around the Golden Ray wreck. Responders are also maintaining protective booms at sensitive locations around St Simons Sound.
Unified Command also employs natural resource advisors to survey the wreck site and the EPB to the shoreline. These advisors accompany each debris trawler to monitor any impact on marine animals or wildlife. Survey teams continue to assess the shoreline to find and remove any debris or other environmental impacts.
Covid pandemic adds to salvage challenges
American Salvage Association outlines the additional challenges coronavirus risk mitigation generates, while potentially hampering emergency response
As the US salvage industry tackles one of the largest projects in its history, salvors are being increasingly challenged by coronavirus-induced restrictions.
Salvors are progressing on the salvage of car carrier wreck Golden Ray in St. Simons Sound, Georgia, by cutting section seven from the remains.
While this salvage continues, American Salvage Association (ASA) president Lindsay Malen-Habib* says salvors are having to overcome more than just the technical and environmental challenges of these projects.
The coronavirus pandemic has particularly impacted North American operations, where infections and deaths are the highest seen worldwide. To mitigate the risks, companies need to develop different ways to maintain safety on vessels.
US Coast Guard (USCG) guidelines are being followed to prevent infections breaking out, protecting mariners and others involved in salvage projects.
Ms Malen-Habib says Covid has meant additional safety standards and protocols are required, with one of the biggest challenges being social distancing during salvage.
“Covid forces us into new ways of working and compliance,” she explains. “We need to follow mandates to mitigate risk.” This includes providing masks to salvage personnel to wear on board vessels, including maritime casualties. There is extra risk analysis, regular testing, and additional equipment requirements to consider.
Some of these challenges are derived from USCG’s requirements for all personnel on board vessels to have merchant mariner credentials.
“But what if we need to add more people on vessels?” Ms Malen-Habib asks. This could include fire-fighters from local ports, naval architects or engineering specialists, she says. These personnel may not be allowed on board vessels if they do not have sufficient marine credentials.
ASA has had several virtual conversations with the USCG and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration about this. ASA also has a safety and standards committee looking at safety protocols.
Ms Malen-Habib says there are ongoing discussions with USCG to review the wording of rules to enable greater flexibility of the people allowed on board vessels for salvage operations. She says salvage companies can overcome the extra challenges Covid throws at them.
“There are restrictions, but salvors are logistics experts,” she continues. “We respond to maritime casualties in various locations and to natural disasters in the US, keeping harbours, ports and other infrastructure clear.”
Ms Malen-Habib explains some of the ways salvors have overcome the logistical and environmental challenges in these projects.
“Salvage involves a tremendous amount of calculated risk, and dangerous work in remote locations and challenging environments. We need to work together to ensure safety for personnel and crews.”
This can include setting up night and day shifts for responders, providing good eating and sleeping accommodation on site, controlling any Covid outbreaks on projects and preventing the virus spreading on to vessels.
“We are working together as an industry to get over the challenges,” says Ms Malen-Habib, who is also client services manager at Resolve Marine.
She refers to Resolve’s response to a Hoegh car carrier fire in Jacksonville, Florida in Q4 2020 as an example of how the industry worked together safely.
The OPA-90 salvage and marine fire-fighting (FiFi) responder tackled a fire on a 4,900-car equivalent vessel at the Blount Island Marine Terminal in Jacksonville. FiFi-class tugs were first on site to contain the vessel fire. They were assisted by local fire-fighters using dockside lorries and fireboats.
“We mobilised people and equipment from other states to Jacksonville to tackle this casualty,” says Ms Malen-Habib. Once the fire was extinguished and the vessel declared safe for entry, salvors removed 1,494 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 122 tonnes of diesel oil.
On the Golden Ray removal project, salvors resumed cutting section seven of the wreck in early April. Divers successfully placed the new cutting chain into the existing groove on the hull-side of the wreck.
Along the deck-side of the wreck, response engineers established a new cut line because underwater interference had prevented divers from inserting the chain into the existing cut groove.
Responders continue to periodically pause cutting operations to inspect equipment, adjust when necessary and to monitor the wreck through sensors and hydrographic surveys to confirm it remains stable.
Salvors were also planning to cut between sections three and four. During early April, technicians inspected cuts along the projected groove during pre-cutting operations.
On another part of the project, section two was loaded on to barge Julie B in the Port of Brunswick and was towed by 2000-built Crosby Tug’s Kurt J Crosby to a recycling facility in Louisiana.
* Lindsay Malen-Habib was speaking during the Tugs Towboats and Barges virtual conference in March 2021 as president of the American Salvage Association
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