Salvors have been working hard to prepare for a resumption of cutting operations to remove the engine room section of the grounded ro/ro Golden Ray, the latest in a series of giant chunks to be cut off and shipped away for demolition. According to the Brunswick News, the team has been replacing the stud-link anchor chain for the third cut in the series with a stronger length. The previous chain broke during cutting operations, forcing salvors to pause work and move on to the fourth cut in the series while divers re-rigged the equipment for the third cut.
“Each step in the process of safely separating a section of the Golden Ray requires expert planning and preparation,” said U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Efren Lopez, federal on-scene coordinator. “We remain focused on our priorities of worker and public safety while safeguarding the surrounding environment and the shipping channel.”
Not including time spent on dive preparations while the fourth cut was under way, the third cut has been the operation's primary focus for about 46 days. Initial projections suggested that each cut would take 24 hours.
In addition to difficulties with chain and equipment wear, salvors have encountered increased weight in the sections due to the accumulation of sediment, which has built up over the many months since the vessel grounded and salvage began. The team began weight-shedding operations on the next section on Monday.
Owner Hyundai Glovis initially rejected a piecemeal demolition and cargo removal strategy, preferring to remove giant transverse sections to save time and risk. However, the salvage team has found that it still has to pull out some of the vessel's interior decks and wrecked cargo in order to lift each block. According to the team, each remaining section will undergo weight-shedding both before and after each cut. Salvors are also adding more drain holes and water streams to remove sediment.
Sea-fastening operations continue aboard the barge Julie B to secure the previous section for its final journey. Once it is secured and inspected, the barge will depart Brunswick and get under way for a ship recycling facility in Louisiana, where the section will join the Golden Ray's bow and stern blocks for demolition.
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 an uncontrolled 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 NTSB panel last September. “The vessel could have taken on additional ballast to be in compliance.”