Work has begun on two challenging marine salvage operations in the Americas: Golden Ray in the US and Stellar Banner in Brazil
Salvage operations started on partially capsized car carrier Golden Ray off Georgia, US, after months of environmental protection operations. An environmental barrier around this wreck, off Brunswick in St Simons Sound, is in place and lifting lugs are being installed in preparation for removing the ship.
This is being co-ordinated by Unified Command, comprising the US Coast Guard, Georgia Department of Natural Resource and Gallagher Marine Services, which contracted Donjon-SMIT, T&T Salvage and Weeks Marine to salvage one of the most complicated marine casualties in US history. Moran’s tugs were first on the scene to rescue the crew from the capsized car carrier in September 2019.
During March and April 2020, 36 large-diameter, high-density polyethylene floating pipes were installed by Weeks Marine between piles to support the environmental protection barrier surrounding Golden Ray. This foam-filled pipe will float on the water surface between steel buoys constrained by the structural framing at each pile group.
This barrier will secure and protect a floating offshore oil boom installed outside the pipe to surround the wreck site. Additionally, rock was imported to shore up the bow and stern areas which were scouring the seabed, increasing the risk of the vessel breaking up. Containers were sunk in key locations to reduce the effect of tidal flow and currents on the operation.
The intention is to dismantle the vessel in situ. T&T Salvage has installed the first of 16 lifting lugs to the wreck. These will be connection points on cut-up sections of Golden Ray and rigging of heavy-lift barge VB-10,000. Golden Ray lost stability soon after departing Georgia’s Port of Brunswick on 8 September 2019.
In Brazil, Smit Salvage and Ardent are salvaging a grounded very large ore carrier Stellar Banner, listing around 96 km off the coast of Maranhão, laden with 275,000 tonnes of iron ore. In March, bunker fuel removal began with support from anchor handling tug ALP Defender and an oil spill response vessel from OceanPact.
Around 3,500 tonnes of fuel oil and 140 tonnes of gas oil remain on board. This will be pumped into a receiving vessel.
According to the Brazilian Navy, four of its vessels and two government vessels are on site, supported by six tugs with oil spill containment equipment and five offshore supply vessels. These are supporting salvage operations and are ready to contain pollution and leaks from Stellar Banner.
Smit has salvaged two chemical and product tankers and towed a Capsize bulker in the last four months. In the Philippines, Smit refloated grounded chemical tanker Chemitec with assistance from Malayan Towage and Salvage.
Oil spill response measures were deployed on site and about 200 m of floating cargo hoses were used to transfer 7,300 tonnes of the cargo to chemical tanker Sichem New York, chartered to receive the lightered cargo. Following a carefully calculated deballasting sequence, Chemitec was refloated with the help of three harbour tugs.
Off Spain, Smit refloated chemical/product tanker Blue Star, which grounded in Ria de Ares, Galicia. Bunker fuel and other pollutants were removed by pumps and a flowline from the ship to a nearby clifftop. Tug Vehintiocho, with 90 tonnes of bollard pull, was connected to Blue Star to prevent motion during high tides.
Smit used anchor handling tugs Union Princess, with 207-tonnes bollard pull and Boka Pegasus (257 tonnes), to refloat the tanker. Both tugs used Dyneema floating tow lines to make the towing connection. With all breached tanks pressurised, these large tugs pulled the casualty free.