golden ray fire

Tugs use fire monitors to control a fire inside the Golden Ray wreck on Friday. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

Photos: Golden Ray Post-Fire Assessment

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 4489
May 17, 2021

The post-fire assessment of the Golden Ray and wreck removal equipment kicked off Saturday after Friday’s fire inside the remaining hull of the vessel.

The St. Simons Sound Incident Command said the assessment was likely to take several days.

Part of the process involved unhooking the VB10000 heavy lift vessel from Section Three and shifting it away from the wreck.

Fire-fighting teams controlled the fire early Friday evening and immediately began boundary cooling operations on the wreck.

The Golden Ray was carrying about 4,200 vehicles when it lost stability and grounded in St. Simons Sound as it departed the Port of Brunswick in September 2019. All vehicles remained inside the ship’s cargo holds upon commencement of the cutting and removal operation, which kicked off in November 2020.

The fire flared up Friday morning during pre-cutting operations to separate Section Three from the wreck. Pre-cutting operations involve the use of 6-foot cutting torches along the cut groove to direct the cutting chain away from thicker steel along the cut path. No injuries were reported.

Photo from Friday shows the fire inside the Golden Ray. Courtesy Andy Jones

“Once we are able to access the site safely, we will conduct a thorough analysis of the structural integrity of the wreck as well as all wreck removal equipment,” said Matt Cooke of T&T Salvage, the lead wreck removal contractor, on Friday.

The wreck removal operation involves cutting the Golden Ray into eight sections for lifting, removal and transportation to a recycling facility in Louisiana. The heavy lift vessel VB10000 has been modified with a large cutting chain to make the cuts and subsequently lift the sections onto barges. In total, the operation requires seven cuts including three still remaining.

Even before Friday’s fire, officials estimated the wreck removal operation to last several more months.

Multiple vessels cool the Golden Ray wreck using sea water on Saturday following a fire inside the wreck on Friday. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

All the work is being conducted inside a constructed Environmental Protection Barrier to prevent the spread of pollution. Environmental monitoring has been continuing around the clock both inside and outside the barrier and along nearby shorelines.

The incident command reports that the environmental response unit has increased water quality monitoring to daily sampling operations in the vicinity of the wreck site, while safety personnel are monitoring air quality in the community using mobile equipment. To date, the monitoring efforts have produced zero detections of hazardous particulate matter, the incident command said Friday.

golden ray heat monitoring
An infrared image of the wreck shows the areas of high heat during fire suppression operations around the Golden Ray wreck on Friday. The response uses an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to collect critical imagery for response operations from infrared imagery to aerial assessments of shoreline and marsh areas. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

On-water response teams are also continuing to mitigate very light oil sheens and debris observed around the wreck site, as Natural Resource Advisors monitor areas around the wreck site and the Environmental Protection Barrier for any wildlife activity or impacts. Survey teams continue to assess the shoreline to find and remove any debris or other environmental impacts.

A 150-yard safety zone around the EPB has been increased to 200 yards for recreational vessels.

golden ray cooling
Boundary cooling operations continue on Saturday at the Golden Ray wreck using seawater and a fire monitor system installed on the VB-10000 following a fire inside the wreck on Friday. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.
golden ray post-fire assessment
Response engineers begin initial assessments of the Golden Ray wreck and wreck removal equipment on Saturday following a fire inside the wreck on Friday. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.
golden ray environmental monitoring
Response personnel collect water samples in the vicinity of the Golden Ray wreck on Saturday. The response water quality monitoring plan increased to daily water sampling following a fire inside the wreck on Friday. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.
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