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Photos: Fire Aboard Wrecked Ro/Ro Golden Ray Warped Lifting Lugs

ssi response
Welder cuts away section of a warped lifting lug on the top side of the Golden Ray (St. Simons Incident Response)

Published Jun 15, 2021 5:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

The fire aboard the grounded ro/ro Golden Ray last month was hot enough to warp heavy steel lifting lugs that salvors had installed to hoist sections of the wreck's hull, the incident response command reported Tuesday. 

Welders are now hoisting steel and supplies onto the upwards-facing (starboard) side of the hull, the command said, and they are preparing to make repairs to the side plates of the lifting lugs for three out of the four remaining sections awaiting removal. The side plates of the lifting lugs deformed in the heat from the fire inside the wreck on May 14. After the repairs, response engineers will reinspect the lugs using non-destructive testing to ensure safety. 

Responders hoist materials and equipment for welding repairs aboard the wreck (St. Simons Sound Incident Response)

A giant pulley block lowered onto a deck barge for maintenance during a break in cutting operations (St. Simons Sound Incident Response)

The wreck removal team is now in the middle of the fifth cut in the series, and the work on the current section has been under way for just over a month. This week, the heavy lift barge VB 10,000 shifted away from the wreck so that salvors can conduct maintenance on the heavy rigging that they are using to tear the vessel apart. The wreck removal plan involves multiple transverse cuts through the vessel to separate it into sections, carried out using an anchor chain to rip through hull plating and framing. The forces involved are substantial, and the team periodically pauses work to inspect the heavy hoisting blocks and steel cables used to pull the chain through the hull.  

On shore, the response command's cleanup teams are reporting a significantly reduced quantity of oil and debris on Jekyll Island and St. Simons Island compared with weeks past. The fire led to the release of additional quantities of burned plastic from the ro/ro's automotive cargo, and additional outflows of fuel oil residue from the ship's pipes have also been reported. These unwanted (but foreseen) side effects of the removal process were mitigated by cleanup teams and have now subsided, according to the command.

The salvors have three cuts, four section hoists and a seabed debris cleanup ahead before the wreck removal process is completed, and the work is expected to take at least several more months.