The VB-10000 hoists the final section of the Golden Ray wreck, Section Four, slowly out of St. Simons Sound on Saturday, October 16, 2021. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

Golden Ray’s Final Section Removed, Completing Historic Wreck Removal Operation

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 6912
October 26, 2021

The final section of the Golden Ray car carrier has been removed, completing the largest wreck removal in United States history, officials said Tuesday.

The St. Simons Sound Incident Response said the final section of the Golden Ray wreck was removed the wreck site on Monday. Crew stowed the final section, known as Section Four, to a barge for transport to a local facility at the Mayor’s Point Terminal for partial dismantling. Once partially dismantled, the wreck section pieces will be transloaded to container barges and shipped to a recycling facility in Louisiana.

The Unified Command and representatives from T&T Salvage, as the lead salvage contractor, and the Coastal Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources held a press conference on Tuesday to announce the completion of the historic wreck removal.

The completion of the project, at least the wreck removal portion, comes more than two years after the Golden Ray car carrier capsized as it departed the Port of Brunswick with over 4,100 vehicles on September 8, 2019. All 23 crewmembers and one pilot on board were rescued, including four engineering crew who were trapped in the vessel for nearly 40 hours. Two crewmembers sustained serious injuries.

The wreck removal has utilized the heavy lift barge VB-10000, which has been used to cut the wreck of the Golden Ray into eight sections for lifting and removal by barge within an erected environmental protection barrier. Another critical component of the operation, weight shedding, has involved removing weathered vehicles from inside the sections as they are cut up and exposed, allowing for easier handling.

The operation has also been dealt a number of setbacks, such as COVID-19 delays, two hurricane seasons, oil spills, a stubborn engine room section, and a major fire that ripped through the inside of the wreck back in May.

The NTSB has determined the probable cause of the capsizing to be the chief officer’s error entering ballast quantities into the stability calculation program, which led to his incorrect determination of the vessel’s stability.

The agency issued two safety recommendations to the ship’s operator, G-Marine Service Co. of South Korea, recommending the company revise its safety management system to establish procedures for verifying stability calculations and also its safety management system audit process to verify crew adherence to the Arrival/Departure Checklist regarding the closure of watertight doors.

According to the NTSB report, the 656-foot-long Golden Ray began to heel rapidly to port during a 68 degree turn to starboard less than 40 minutes after leaving port. Despite attempts by the pilot and crew to counter the heel, the rate of turn to starboard increased, and the vessel reached a heel of 60 degrees to port in under a minute before it grounded outside of the channel.

Damages from the incident have been estimated at $200 million, including the total loss of the vessel and all cargo inside.

Here’s a collection of imagery from the project:

golden ray salvage
St. Simons Sound Incident Response Command
The first high-density polyethylene (HDPE) floating pipe barrier is installed between pile pairs which will support the environmental protection barrier surrounding the M/V Golden Ray, March 26, 2020. Photo: St. Simons Sound Incident Response
The heavy-lift vessel VB10,000 arrives at the Golden Ray wreck site on Oct. 27, 2020. The vessel will be used to cut and lift the wreck sequentially into eight sections to be placed on barges and dry docks inside the Environmental Protection Barrier (EPB). St. Simons Sound Incident photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes
The hull and the topside of the wreck of the Golden Ray shows the progress of the Section One cutting. Picture from November 2020, St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.
The Barge JULIE B transits underneath Section One of the Golden Ray wreck. Response engineers accounted for approximately 6,000mt of load which includes the dry weight and projected sediment contained within the section during the lift. Image from November 2020. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.
The Barge 455-8 deballasts as it receives Section Eight, the stern of the Golden Ray wreck. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.
golden ray wreck removal
Aerial view of cutting operations to separate Section Seven at the Golden Ray wreck site on Sunday. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo. Photo from mid April 2021
golden ray section 2 cut
U.S. Coast Guard inspectors from Marine Safety Unit Savannah survey the Barge Julie B and Section Two, with cars still inside, during an inspection. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.
golden ray section seven cut
The VB-10000 shifts slightly away from the remaining Golden Ray wreck after the cutting chain separated Section Seven. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.
golden ray wreck on fire
Photo of the Golden Ray wreck on fire, May 14, 2021. Photo: Andy Jones
golden ray fire
Tugs use fire monitors to control a fire inside the Golden Ray wreck. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.
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 May 24. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.
Welders pre-stage materials and equipment to repair side plates of the lifting lugs along Sections Six and Five of the Golden Ray wreck on Monday, June 14, 2021. Photo: St. Simons Sound Incident Response
golden ray wreck removal
Two utility tugs stand watch at the crew access point in the Environmental Protection Barrier (EPB) as a crew transport vessel transits to the VB-10000. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.
Utility tugs use seawater to flush sediment and reduce the weight of Section Three of the Golden Ray wreck during lifting operations. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo
A MARCO oil skimmer vessel attaches to retention boom around the remainder of the Golden Ray wreck in order to remove oil retained inside the boom on Monday. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo
golden ray final cut
The cutting chain advances to the top of the pre-cut groove on the hillside of the Golden Ray wreck on Friday during operations to separate the wreck into two sections. St. Simons Sound Incident Response
Several vehicles are stowed on a containment barge during weight-shedding operations or Section Five of the Golden Ray wreck on Friday, September 10, 2021. The vehicles are then transloaded onto container trucks and sent to a local auto recycling facility. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.
A closeup image of the damage and deformations to Section Five observed by the salvage master and response engineers on Friday, September 10, 2021. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.
The tugs Crosby Star, Caitlin and Kurt J. Crosby assist a dry-dock barge loaded with Section Five of the Golden Ray wreck to a local facility near Mayor’s Point Terminal on Sunday, September 26, 2021. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.
The VB-10000 shifts over Section Four, the remainder of the Golden Ray wreck on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.
golden ray wreck removal
Loaded with Sections Three and Six of the Golden Ray wreck, the Barge Julie B continues sea fastening on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, at Mayor’s Point Terminal in preparation to transit the sections to Louisiana. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

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