Contractors Install Protective Barrier for Golden Ray Salvage

Image courtesy St. Simons Sound Response

Published Mar 3, 2020 9:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

Pile-driving for the construction of an environmental protection barrier is now under way at the site of the grounding of the ro/ro Golden Ray in St. Simons Sound, Georgia. The protective enclosure will be made up a large floating containment barrier to help contain surface pollutants, as well as large netting to contain debris below the surface. It will be held in place by about 70-80 piles, and contractor Weeks Marine has begun piledriving operations. 

The 20,000 dwt Golden Ray partially capsized on September 8, 2019 while heading outbound from the Port of Brunswick, Georgia. Thanks to the efforts of first responders and U.S. Coast Guard helicopter aircrews, all crewmembers were rescued safely, including four individuals who were trapped in the vessel's engine room. 

The salvage effort for Golden Ray is particularly challenging as the wreck sits on its side on shifting sands. In the initial phase of the response, salvors with Donjon-Smit stabilized the site by depositing a "rock blanket" on the bottom surrounding the ship. Salvors have also removed more than 320,000 gallons of oil and water mixture from the vessel. 

With the U.S. Coast Guard's approval, granted with input from the members of the St. Simons Sound unified command, shipowner Hyundai Glovis has appointed a new team from Galveston-based T&T Salvage to demolish the vessel in place. The plan calls for cutting the ship into eight large sections, then hoisting and removing each section by barge. Some portion of the 4,200 new cars contained within the Golden Ray's hull are expected to fall into the water during the operation, according to court filings. Donjon-Smit had proposed removing the vessel in small 600-ton sections, removing cars as the work proceeded.

Donjon-Smit has filed a federal suit to contest T&T Salvage's appointment as lead salvor, arguing that Donjon was the designated responder under Hyundai Glovis' OPA 90 response plan and that T&T's large-section removal method would be more harmful to the marine environment. Hyundai Glovis contests this characterization, contending in court filings that “by cutting larger sections, fewer time-consuming and pollution-threatening cuts are required for the wreck removal," thereby speeding up the salvage process. 

Last week, Donjon asked the court to order the Coast Guard to hand over all administrative records related to the decision to switch salvors. Donjon is also seeking to secure depositions from the personnel running the unified command for the salvage response, including Coast Guard officials, according to the Brunswick News.  

Local environmental NGO Altahama Riverkeeper has called for removing the Golden Ray's starboard (upward-facing) side first, then removing the cars, decks and remaining pollutants from the interior. This method would use the vessel's own hull plating as a containment barrier during the majority of the salvage.