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.
“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.
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.
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.
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