Capsized Golden Ray Salvage Operation Going Slow, To Be Continued Till June

The salvage plan of the capsized ship Golden Ray is taking more time than usual. The huge car carrier sank with 4200 cars on its deck 2 years ago and the crew started the salvage operation in November. They thought it would be over by the New year but it is taking quite a long to demolish it.

The crew has employed a massive crane to take the Golden Ray out of the water. The 200 feet tall crane with VB10,000 is still at it after 4 months. The 70 storey ship has been cut off at both ends so that it can be lifted. Barges are carrying parts of chunks from this ship. Despite this, half of the ship is still sitting on the Georgian coast.

Residents of the area like Andy Jones say the demolition is accelerating at a slow pace and it’s disappointing and problematic for the people in the area. Salvage experts had decided to cut up the ship after it was found to be too big to manoeuvre. The ship was planned to be cut down into 8 big chunks, weighing 4100 tons each.

A view of the hull-side of Section Two of the Golden Ray wreck from the VB-10000 during cutting operations
Image Credits: St. Simons Sound Incident response

The ship hull was reared with the help of a crane along with a winch and pulley system which was attached to anchors to break it down.

The individual cuts were meant to take a day per piece but it got delayed as the time to load it into the barge wasn’t accounted for. So, what was meant to be an 8 weeks job is taking more than expected.

The first cut which began on November 6, took 3 weeks to complete. Upon lifting the bow, the salvage crew found neatly stacked battered cars and SUVs on the deck. The second cut began on Christmas Eve and took a week to finish.

The third cut took up the whole month of February which included cutting through the engine room equipped with thick steel. This caused a strain on the cutting apparatus resulting in further delay for its maintenance. The cut was stopped halfway through.

By May they are starting a new cut on the other end of the ship while the third cut was on hold.

To Be Salvaged by the Hurricane Season

According to Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes who is part of the commanding team, “the ship’s steel has proven tougher than anticipated, slowing the process, and crews have taken pauses to perform extra inspections and maintenance”.

“If people are wondering when it is going to be done, we’re doing it as quickly and as safely as can be done. But quick takes a back seat to safety”, Himes added further.

It’s estimated that the work will be done before the Atlantic hurricane season hits in June.

Workers have sped up the process by cutting more efficiently. They are using torches to remove strips of the ship’s hull plating. They have formed a guide for the cutting chain. Big mechanical claws are now used to remove cars from the ship before the cutting and lift commences.

Environmental Concerns Heightens

Amidst this, there are concerns about environmental pollution in the marshes, beaches and the waters of the area due to delay in the demolition.

responder maintains a pulley block during a routine inspection of the cutting apparatus
Image Credits: St. Simons Sound Incident response

Steps are being taken to clean the area by putting up mesh barriers so that debris doesn’t reach other areas. Skimmer equipped boats are on standby to mop oil and other pollutants by using absorbent booms. But despite all efforts car parts bumpers, tires etc are washing up on the beaches from the wreck area. Even birds of the area have oil on their body because of this. There are concerns about 44000 gallons of fuel that can leak out once it is cut.

“The longer anything sits in the water, the ship or these cars, it breaks down,” said Susan Inman, coastkeeper for the Altamaha Riverkeeper conservation group. “You have lead paint on your ship. You have all these plastic pieces, hydraulic fluid. A lot of this stuff is just going to be around for years.”

The hurricane season and the coronavirus outbreak delayed the salvage plan to November last year, as the salvage crew got infected with the virus.


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