Salvors: Fire Aboard Golden Ray Should Not Impede Wreck Removal

golden ray
The heavy lift barge VB 10,000 and the remains of the Golden Ray inside the environmental containment barrier, May 25 (St. Simons Sound Incident Response)

Published May 27, 2021 2:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

The salvage team for the Golden Ray wreck removal has determined that the recent fire within the hulk did not damage the heavy lift barge VB 10,000 or its equipment, and the next section in the cut sequence appears to have been minimally affected by the blaze.

A large fire broke out inside the wreck on May 14 during hot work operations. Salvors were pre-cutting along a planned chain-cut groove using cutting lances, a technique used to direct the chain away from thicker sections of steel in the cut path. Smoke began coming out of the hull, and as the fire grew, the wreck was safely evacuated. Firefighting efforts succeeded in suppressing the blaze by that night. 

A preliminary post-fire engineering analysis of the wreck has confirmed that the lifting lugs and structural members of the next section in the cut sequence are in good condition. A more thorough analysis is under way, and it may recommend post-fire reinforcements or repairs to ensure tht the section can be lifted safely once it is separated from the wreck. Once testing and any needed repairs are completed, the cutting work will resume. 

The team's naval architects and engineers are still examining the rest of the wreck using non-destructive testing and metallurgical analysis. With the results, they will calculate the appropriate lifting weight for each further sections in the series; as for previous sections, excess weight will be removed by tearing out the ro/ro's movable deck sections and wrecked cars.

“We are confident that we can safely resume cutting operations after carefully assessing all of our equipment and the wreck itself,” said U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Efren Lopez, federal on-scene coordinator. “We are completely focused on our goal of safely removing the remainder of the Golden Ray while safeguarding the surrounding environment and the shipping channel throughout the process.”

Salvors examine one of the welded-on lifting lugs atop Golden Ray's hull (St. Simons Sound Incident Response)

After the fire, pollution response teams and citizens have reported a larger volume of solid waste - primarily burned and melted plastic car parts - washing up on nearby beaches. Since both ends of the vessel are cut open and the tidal flows of St. Simons Sound can wash through it, there is a strong potential for debris from the vehicular cargo to enter the marine environment, local NGO Altahama Riverkeeper told the Georgia Recorder.