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Three Months In, Salvors Complete Third Cut Through Hull of Golden Ray

cut complete
Image courtesy St. Simons Sound Incident Response

Published Apr 26, 2021 2:22 PM by The Maritime Executive

At long last, operations to complete the third cut through the hull of the grounded ro/ro Golden Ray are complete. Salvors finished the transverse cut through the vessel's engine room on Saturday, bringing a months-long effort to an end. 

The heavily-reinforced framing around the engine compartment made the third cut far more challenging than for previous sections, and the work has proceeded sporadically - with multiple pauses for gear repair and chain breakage - since cutting started on January 27. On February 26, one month into the work, a chain breakage forced a temporary halt to the project. After repositioning the chain back in the groove, the cutting resumed on April 6. The work had to halt again on April 7 and again on April 12 due to failed chain joining links.

Third cut nears completion, April 22 (St. Simons Sound Incident Response)

Now that the third cut is complete, the salvors will prepare the engine room section for lifting operations by removing cargo (vehicles), moveable decks and sediment from the segment. Once lifted, it will be loaded onto a barge and secured for an ocean transit to Louisiana, where it will be scrapped. 

Collected data from monitors and hydrographic surveys confirms that the remaining wreck is stable, the team said. 

Image courtesy St. Simons Sound Incident Response

As in weeks past, the salvage team's on-water response boats continue to clean up small oil slicks and remove floating debris. Shoreline teams are conducting the same continuous cleanup work on nearby beaches and marshes.

The salvors must still complete three cuts, four section hoists and a seabed debris cleanup before the wreck removal process is completed. The commercial salvor for the project told AP that the work will continue for at least several more months, taking the effort into its second hurricane season. 

The Golden Ray went aground and partially capsized in Georgia's St. Simons Sound on September 7, 2019. During an outbound transit in calm conditions, a routine turn to starboard turned into a runaway maneuver, ending with the vessel aground and resting on her side. Lt. Ian Oviatt, a staff engineer at the Coast Guard Marine Safety Center, told the NTSB that the vessel had taken on too little ballast for her cargo load. “The cause of the vessel capsizing was lack of righting energy due to the way the vessel was loaded,” Oviatt told an investigative panel last September. “The vessel could have taken on additional ballast to be in compliance.”