Salvors Will Pour Rocks to Stabilize Golden Ray Wreck

golden ray salvage
Responders with the unified command reposition boom around the motor vessel Golden Ray October 1, St. Simons Sound, Brunswick, Georgia. Photo: St. Simons Sound Unified Command

Salvors are working to stabilize the overturned Golden Ray from erosion in preparation for a potentially lengthy dismantling operation in Georgia’s St. Simons Sound.

The Unified Command said Sunday that, starting Oct. 28, crews will begin to strategically place rocks next to the hull of the vessel in hopes of slowing erosion from strong tidal currents, which have already caused some erosion and movement of sediment.

Trucks are in the process of transporting approximately 6,000 tons of rock from several local quarries within the state of Georgia. The rock-mixture will range in sizes from 1-to-3 inch rock pieces.

After dismantling of the vessel is completed, the rocks will be removed using excavators with sieve buckets.

Unit Manager Reid Jackson of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, walks past a mound of gravel, Brunswick, Georgia, Oct. 25, 2019. The 1-to-3 inch rock-mixture was staged for deployment and later placed next to the hull of the M/V Golden Ray in order to slow down erosion around the vessel.

The operation has been by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources have reviewed and approved the operation while engineers work to finalize a vessel removal plan.

“When operations begin, the rock will be transported by barge and placed on the seafloor using knuckle boom excavators and GPS for accuracy. Sonar technology will be used to guide the placement of the 1-to-3 inch aggregate rocks next to the hull of the vessel in real time,” the Unified Command said in a statement.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience as plans are developed to remove the ship and its cargo from the waterway,” said Federal On Scene Coordinator Norman Witt, Coast Guard commander for the Unified Command. “Response crews are working seven days a week, weather permitting, to prepare the motor vessel Golden Ray for removal.”

The Golden Ray was carrying about 4,200 vehicles when it lost stability and grounded in St. Simons Bay as it departed Georgia’s Port of Brunswick on September 8th. Twenty-three crew members and one pilot were evacuated safely. 

Salvage experts determined conditions will not permit the vessel to be refloated and safely removed in one piece, and instead have opted to dissemble the vessel on-site by cutting into the hull and removing all components and vehicles inside. 

More than 250,000 gallons of fuel has been removed from the M/V Golden Ray to date, according to the Unified Commands latest figures. A 150-yard safety zone remains in effect around the vessel.

The incident initially disrupted operations at the Georgia Ports Authority’s Port of Brunswick, the second busiest auto port in the United States. Commercial ship traffic has since returned to normal.

The Unified Command has so far not released a timeline for the wreck’s removal. 

Over the weekend, the Unified Command released LIDAR images offering a view of the ship’s inaccessible cargo holds:

A cargo assessment takes place on the fourth deck aboard the capsized M/V Golden Ray in the St. Simons Sound, Georgia, Oct. 4, 2019. The Unified Command used laser technology to analyze the inaccessible cargo-hold, which produced 3-D images of inside the grounded vessel.
A cargo assessment takes place on the ninth deck aboard the capsized M/V Golden Ray in the St. Simons Sound, Georgia, Oct. 4, 2019. The Unified Command used laser technology to analyze the inaccessible cargo-hold, which produced 3-D images of inside the grounded vessel.
A cargo assessment takes place on the ninth deck aboard the capsized M/V Golden Ray in the St. Simons Sound, Georgia, Oct. 8, 2019. The Unified Command used laser technology to analyze the inaccessible cargo-hold, which produced 3-D images of inside the grounded vessel.