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Salvors Complete Cutting for Sixth Section of the Golden Ray

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Section six cut free (St. Simons Sound Incident Response)

Published Aug 1, 2021 2:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

Salvors have successfully cut free a sixth massive section from the hull of the wrecked ro/ro Golden Ray, completing the task in far less time than has been required for previous segments. 

Chain cutting for the sixth section began on July 22 and finished on July 30 - an astonishingly rapid timetable compared to the months-long efforts required for some of the previous cuts. The salvors are now preparing the section to be lifted and stowed on a dry-dock barge for transit to a facility south of Mayor’s Point Terminal in Brunswick, Georgia. With the sixth section removed, just one cut and two sections remain before the wreck is finally gone. 

The lift preparations include weight-shedding, beginning with the removal of about 50 wrecked cars from within the section's decks. Any reduction in weight contributes to the safety of the lift, according to the response command. The removed vehicles are off-loaded into containers and transferred by truck to local auto recycling facilities. 

A separate team is pulling wreckage from the water with a crane and grapple, loading it onto a deck barge for transfer and recycling. Over the past two weeks, the debris removal crew removed 78 vehicles, six moveable deck sections and five shots of anchor chain from areas adjacent to the wreck.

Images courtesy St. Simons Sound Incident Response

Water pollution was a known and expected hazard going into the project, given the large quantity of non-recoverable HFO in the vessel's fuel lines. On Saturday, the salvage response had to mitigate a "significant discharge of oil" from the wreck, both inside and outside the environmental containment barrier surrounding the work site. The strong currents of St. Simons Sound have made pollution control challenging, as the oil can be pulled under the barrier during peak tidal flows. 

“We have all assets deployed and are moving quickly to contain any dense oil which migrated beyond the EPB with the shifting tides,” said Incident Commander Chris Graff of Gallagher Marine Systems. “Our people have trained and equipment is prepared to ensure the protection of the people and environment of St. Simons Sound.”

Images courtesy St. Simons Sound Incident Response

Photos provided by the response command show a long trail of black oil on the water, with sheening extending beyond it. According to local environmental group Altahama Riverkeeper, the oil is coming ashore at beaches on Jekyll and St. Simons Islands.