Golden Ray response operations resume

Written by Nick Blenkey
Golden Ray wreck on its side

Removal of Golden Ray wreck has cost “several hundreds of millions of dollars,” says insurer Allianz. [St. Simons Sound Incident Response Photo]

The St. Simons Sound Incident Unified Command working on the salvage of the capsized car carrier Golden Ray has resumed operations after the passage of Hurricane Isaias. The response has since placed resources back into position to continue work.

Due to the potential impact of the Hurricane to the St. Simons Sound area, the Unified Command (USCG, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Gallagher Marine Systems) implemented its Heavy Weather Plan which required the repositioning and securing of all response assets in advance of the storm’s passing.

Although cutting and lifting operations currently set for early October, responders continue a multitude of tasks in preparation for a safe and successful removal of the vessel from St. Simons Sound.

“Our advanced planning for heavy weather paid dividends. We were prepared for Hurricane Isaias and are proud of the quick execution of our Heavy Weather Plan by our response personnel,” said Cmdr. Efren Lopez, Federal On-Scene Coordinator “There are many plans to execute and a lot of activity still going on as we prepare for the eventual cutting and lifting of the vessel itself.”

On-going operations are as follows:

  • Continuously monitor the structural integrity of the Golden Ray
  • Maintenance of the Environmental Protection Barrier (EPB)
  • Monitoring and maintenance of scour protection around the wreck site
  • Monitoring the wreck for any pollution release
  • Sustaining an existing position of readiness in the event of a release with scheduled on-water recovery drills
  • Maintaining firefighting capability onboard the ship through crew training and drills
  • Establish sequestered on-water lodging via a vessel at the wreck site to further reduce coronavirus exposure to responders.
  • Prepare local sites in accordance with a large-scale removal plan that includes installing vessel berthing/mooring and site preparation.

The wreck is stable and is not expected to impact the deep water channel or to commercial ship traffic. A safety zone around the EPB surrounding the Golden Ray wreck site remains in effect to protect the response crews and the public.

The VB 10,000 heavy-lift, twin-gantry crane (VB 10K), modified specifically for the cutting lifting operation, will remain in the region. VB 10K will eventually be mobilized to St. Simon’s Sound to begin cutting & lifting operations. These operations are anticipated to last for eight weeks from the onset barring any unforeseen obstacles.

Responders continue to follow CDC guidelines strictly to limit coronavirus exposure and have adapted daily operations accordingly. Measures in place include daily health checks, required wearing of face coverings, safe-distancing and teleworking (whenever possible), self-quarantines for all incoming members, continuous disinfection of facilities and work platforms, and contact tracing protocols when necessary. On-site medical advisors constantly revise health safety guidance with respect to new information about the spread of the disease.

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