Golden Ray slicing reaches half-way point

The removal of the wreck of capsized car carrier Golden Ray from St Simon’s Sound, Brunswick, Georgia,  reached the halfway mark on April 26th, 19 months after the vessel capsized.

Crane barge VB 10000 lifted the vessel’s engine room section – “Section Seven” – onto a barge, for eventual transport to Louisiana where it will be broken up. The separation of Section Seven had proved the most difficult so far, to a considerable degree. The cutting was postponed and another section, Section Two”, was removed from the aft, while problems encountered with the cutting of Section Seven were addressed.

The removal of Section Seven also saw the severing of the ship’s fuel line near the engine room. Nearly all of the fuel had already been siphoned from the ship before demolition began, although more than 44,000 gallons could remain. Some oily discharges and sheen were spotted after the engine room was cut away, but they were cleaned up rapidly, without any report of major leaks.

With the dismantling of the Golden Ray a considerable way behind schedule, T&T Salvage now plans to keep working well beyond June 1st, when the Atlantic hurricane season officially starts. Crews will pause only if a storm threatens the Georgia coast.

The half of the ship that remains on its side, partly submerged, off St. Simons Island appears stable enough to withstand severe weather.

The unified command had predicted that demolition, once started, could take only about eight weeks. That did not happen. The engine room section proved particularly recalcitrant, with the cutting beginning in February. The thicker, fortified steel snapped the links used to connect the cutting chain. The strongest possible links available were brought in and eventually the cut was completed.

Three more divisions will turn the remaining half-wreck into four pieces. If these run as smoothly as section two’s separation, this could progress comparatively rapidly.

One thousand of the 4,200 vehicles on board the vessel – dismantling the ship without removing the cargo was a deliberate decision – have been recovered. In some cases a mechanical claw plucked them from the ship’s open ends, while occasionally they were fished from the water. About 2,700 pounds of debris from the wreck — mainly parts of the cars — have been collected by crews surveying the shoreline.

“While the recent removal of Section Seven which included the engine room has reduced the risk associated with pollution to the environment, our team will continue to maintain a response posture commensurate with the risks that are still there,” said incident commander Tom Wiker of Gallagher Marine Systems.

The three cuts and four sections that remained were expected to go more smoothly, not least due to lessons learned from earlier mistakes. However, the responders expect unforeseen challenges. T&T Salvage President Mauricio Garrido said that “we anticipate several more months of wreck removal operations, which will include the demobilization of infrastructure, assets and personnel” so that St Sounds Sound is left as it was before the wreck occurred”.