Golden ray fire assessment

A response engineer and naval architect walk along the topside of the Golden Ray wreck during a fire damage assessment on Monday, May 24. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

Golden Ray Cutting Resumes Two Weeks After Fire

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 4716
May 27, 2021

Work to continue cutting the next section of the Golden Ray wreck resumed Thursday nearly two weeks after a fire halted the operation, the Incident Command said in an update today.

The resumption of work comes after a thorough analysis of the wreck removal equipment concluded that the VB-10000, the cutting apparatus, and fire suppression equipment are fully operational after the fire inside the wreck on May 14.

A preliminary engineering analysis confirmed that the lifting lugs and structure of Section Three are in “satisfactory condition,” the Incident Command reported on Wednesday. An update today said wreck removal personnel began cycling the cutting chain back into the groove to separate Section Three, marking the first step to resuming cutting.

Inspection and maintenance checks of the cutting apparatus and cutting chain are expected to continue as a part of routine chain cycling operations. Cutting operations will be continuously monitored and evaluated by engineers and the on-site salvage master, while assessments of the wreck’s topside and lifting lugs will continue throughout the wreck removal process, the Incident Command said.

Roped technicians and divers have also completed pre-cutting on the remaining sections of the wreck which included drilling additional drain holes and removing plates of exterior steel along the cut grooves.

Meanwhile, shoreline survey teams have continued to recover increased numbers of small, plastic debris from the shorelines of Jekyll Island and St. Simons Island. All debris is sorted, catalogued and disposed of according to the response debris plan, according to the Incident Command.

Golden Ray post fire
Aerial photo of the Environmental Protection Barrier (EPB), the VB-1000 and the remainder of the Golden Ray wreck on Tuesday, May 25, 2021. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

“We are confident that we can safely resume cutting operations after carefully assessing all of our equipment and the wreck itself,” said U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Efren Lopez, federal on-scene coordinator. “We are completely focused on our goal of safely removing the remainder of the Golden Ray while safeguarding the surrounding environment and the shipping channel throughout the process.”

Personnel are also continuing with air monitoring in local communities using mobile air monitoring equipment. Community air quality analysis and water sample analysis continues to confirm air and water quality standards have not been exceeded.

On the water, response teams continue to mitigate very light oil sheens and debris observed around the wreck site, the Incident Command reports. Natural Resource Advisors continue to monitor areas around the wreck site and the Environmental Protection Barrier for any wildlife activity or impacts.

The fire inside the Golden Ray started on Friday, May 14, during pre-cutting operations. The fire burned for about a day before it was extinguished, calling into question the remaining wreck removal operations.

golden ray fire
Photo from Friday, May 14, shows the fire inside the Golden Ray. Courtesy Andy Jones

Prior to the fire, workers had just removed Section Seven, which contained the ship’s engine room and proved to be the hardest section to separated. Currently, three cuts and four sections remain.

The Golden Ray lost stability and came to rest on a sand bar in St. Simons Sound, Georgia as it departed the Port of Brunswick with 4,200 vehicles in its deck all the way back in September 2019. With the exception of section-by-section weight shedding (i.e. removal of cars and debris), all vehicles have remain inside the wreck as each section is accessed and removed.

The wreck removal operation involves using the VB-10000, a heavy-lift catamaran barge, which hovers above the wreck and uses a cutting chain for the arduous process of separating the wreck into eight sections. Each section is then lifted onto a barge, fastened on deck and transported to a recycling facility in Louisiana. All work is being conducted inside an Environmental Protection Barrier constructed around the wreck, meant to mitigate the spread of contaminates throughout the operation.

T&T Salvage is the main wreck removal contractor in the operation. Cutting kicked off last November and operations are expected to last into Summer, including hurricane season.

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