Golden Ray Salvage Team Begins Second Hull Cut

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On Christmas Day, salvors began the second cut on the hull of the grounded ro/ro Golden Ray in St. Simons Sound, Georgia. The salvage plan calls for cutting the ship into eight sections, and the first was removed on November 29. 

The first cut took weeks longer than expected. The anchor chain used in the cutting operation parted during cutting, and the project’s engineers had to make modifications to the equipment in the middle of the evolution. The 24-hour process ultimately took 20 days. For the second cut, salvors have made preliminary cuts along the expected path of the cutting chain to reduce the load, and they have spent weeks modifying the cutting setup, applying lessons learned from the first round. 

“We are confident that the time invested to implement modifications to the cutting apparatus as well as perform critical maintenance to the wreck removal equipment will contribute to a safe and efficient cutting operation.” said Incident Commander Chris Graff of Gallagher Marine Systems. “We are ready to mitigate expected debris and other potential threats.”

For safety reasons, the response team has asked local drone operators not to fly over the scene to capture imagery of the dramatic process as it resumes. The response command has released video and imagery of its own to show recent progress.

A responder sets a pin to attach a pulley to a block as a part of the cutting apparatus used to separate the Golden Ray wreck into sections. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

Responders attach the anchor chain to a pad eye on the deck of the VB-10000 during operations to rig the cutting apparatus. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

A responder cuts through a link to prepare the cutting chain for tensioning. The length of the cutting chain is adjusted prior to and throughout a cutting operation to maintain a constant upward force as the chain slowly moves along the cut groove. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

The first (bow) section has departed for a recycling yard in Louisiana aboard a large deck barge, without waiting for the removal of the second (stern) segment. The initial plan called for loading both. The loose wrecked cars within the bow section were secured for sea before departure.

The team has managed COVID-19 risk effectively in recent weeks, containing infections to non-essential staff. All personnel with roles that are critical to the wreck removal are in sequestered housing at a nearby resort, and they have not been affected since the resumption of work on the vessel in October. No new COVID cases among the support crew were reported Friday.

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