"We Expect Fires": The Plan for Golden Ray's Removal

Installing a lifting lug on Golden Ray's hull, June 2020 (St. Simons Sound Unified Command)

Published Jun 19, 2020 6:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

The unified command responsible for the removal of the grounded ro/ro Golden Ray is moving forward with a novel salvage plan: the ship will be cut into eight giant sections with a cutting chain, resulting in the likely release of whole cars and fuel into an enclosed pen in St. Simons Sound, Georgia. 

“We expect fires to happen,” said Chris Graff, director of response for salvage specialist Gallagher Marine, speaking to The Brunswick News on a recent press tour. “Our fire teams are ready to go.”

To mitigate the risk, the salvors will use barge-mounted fire monitors and will douse the cutting chain with water for the portion of the cut above the waterline. In addition to fires, Graff expects falling debris and a release of petroleum: Golden Ray has a cargo of about 4,200 cars on board, and the command is planning for some of these vehicles to fall into the water during cutting and lifting. The ship also has an estimated 40,000 gallons of petroleum remaining in her tanks, and a portion will likely be released during the evolution.

In order to control these releases, the team has installed pilings in a ring around the vessel, and these support a curtain of five-foot-square netting to contain errant debris. On the surface, an oil containment boom will help to keep pollution localized. A small flotilla of response boats will remove any floating debris that makes it past this barricade. 

The heavy lift vessel VB 10000 will conduct the cutting and hoisting operation. After removal, portions of Golden Ray will be sunk and reefed off the coast. The objective is to remove the majority of the ship before September, the peak of hurricane season for South Georgia. 

The 20,000 dwt Golden Ray capsized in September 2019 while heading outbound from the Port of Brunswick. All crewmembers were rescued safely, but it took about 30 hours to free four crewmembers who were trapped in the vessel's engine room.

Vessel owner Hyundai Glovis and insurer North of England P&I Club hired T&T Salvage for the wreck removal after consultation with the U.S. Coast Guard. A previous plan proposed by Golden Ray's designated OPA-90 response company, Donjon-SMIT, called for cutting the ship into smaller 600-ton blocks and removing the vehicles within in a controlled manner. According to Hyundai Glovis, the eight-piece plan selected will reduce the duration of the salvage effort and will lower the risk of accidents, injuries and pollution.