Coast Guard provides update on salvage operation for capsized ship

The Golden Ray, a massive cargo ship, caught fire and capsized on the St. Simons Sound off the coast of Georgia in the early hours of Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019.


By GORDON JACKSON | The Brunswick News | Published: February 20, 2020

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (Tribune News Service) — If everything goes as planned, the process to drive 80 piles into the seabed surrounding the Golden Ray will begin Thursday.

After netting to trap pollutants and debris is erected on the piles surrounding the vessel, the complicated process to remove the vessel begins. The goal is to have the vessel removed and the seabed clean of debris before the height of hurricane season starts.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Matt Waller, a member of the Unified Command responsible for removing the 656-foot ship that capsized more than five months ago made a presentation at Wednesday’s Brunswick City Commission meeting. He explained the plans to remove the vessel with nearly 4,200 cars inside.

While there is a sense of urgency to remove the vessel, the safety of responders and the environment remain the top priorities, Waller said.

There are currently an estimated 150 people working on the salvage operation. The number of workers and vessels will increase noticeably once the actual salvage work begins. He estimated there could be as many as 500 people at the site.

The ship will be cut into eight sections, one at a time, he said. It will take about 24 hours of continuous cutting by a large chain designed to rip through the hull in a way that won’t leave any metal shavings on the sea bed. Once the cutting begins on a section, it can’t be stopped, Waller said.

A barge crane designed to dismantle oil rigs will straddle the Golden Ray, lift out each section and place it on a barge. It’s possible the chain will cut through some of the vehicles, but Waller said most of them will be pushed aside as the chain cuts through the ship.

It will take four to seven days to secure each section to a barge before it is shipped to a salvage yard in Louisiana. Waller said it will take the barges more than a week for the voyage.

Lifting brackets are currently being welded on the ship’s hull to provide lifting points for each portion of the ship. Once a section is safely secured on a barge, crews will begin cutting the next section.

During the process there will be constant monitoring for oil and fuel leaks at the site and along and estimated 118 miles of shoreline and marshes. The sea bed will also be inspected for any debris as each section is removed.

Divers will be used to pick up anything on the sea bed that can’t be picked up by a magnet, Waller said.

There will be times when traffic in the shipping channel will have to be temporarily suspended. But Waller said the closures will take hours, not days.

Waller ended the presentation by expressing thanks to the community for their hospitality and understanding.

After the presentation, commissioners had a light agenda. They unanimously reappointed commissioners Vincent Williams and Felicia Harris to the city’s finance committee.

©2020 The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.)
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