St. Simons Sound Incident Response, Preparation for Wreck Removal Update

The Unified Command (UC) continues to develop and refine a plan for the removal of the wreck from St. Simons Sound.

 

The UC is coordinating with experts to determine the most prudent barrier to place around the vessel so full-scale demolition may begin.

 

Specific details about the removal and an estimated timeline will be released as plans become finalized.

 

T&T Salvage LLC (T&T) will conduct wreck removal operations.

 

T&T is headquartered in Texas with offices around the globe and has extensive experience in wreck removal.

 

“We’d like to thank the initial response contractor, DonJon-SMIT, for their hard work and commitment throughout this project,” said Chris Graff of Gallagher Marine Systems, incident commander for the responsible party. “This is one of the most complicated marine casualty responses in U.S. history. DonJon-SMIT’s commitment to safety, along with hundreds of other responders, resulted in no injuries despite all the emergent hazards they faced.”

 

“This is a big step forward in this response, but there is still a significant amount of work to be done,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Matt Baer, federal on scene coordinator for the incident. “While we cannot operate without risk, the UC remains focused on mitigating the overall risk to the environment while ensuring the safe removal of the ship. The next phase will include construction of an environmental protection barrier. We have not made a decision on exactly what type of barrier will be constructed given the complex nature of the response, but we are close.”

 

The UC includes the federal on scene coordinator, the U.S. Coast Guard, the state on scene coordinator, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the responsible party, represented by Gallagher Marine Systems.

 

CONTACT: Joint Information Center (912) 944-7122

Removal of rudder and propeller from the Golden Ray is complete.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The St. Simons Sound Incident Response Unified Command has successfully completed the removal of the rudder and propeller from the Golden Ray today. Crews worked over the past week to complete the operation which was hampered by adverse weather conditions at times.  The removal of approximately 130 tons of weight will help reduce stresses to the hull of the wreck.

Portions of the ship that were removed are being donated to the State of Georgia for use as artificial reefs in areas designated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Crews work to remove the propeller from the M/V Golden Ray, St. Simons Sound, Dec. 20, 2019.

Crews transfer the propeller from the M/V Golden Ray to the work barges for safe removal, St. Simons Sound, Dec. 20, 2019.

Crews remove the rudder from the M/V Golden Ray and transfer it to the work barges for safe removal, St. Simons Sound, Dec. 20, 2019.

Lightering of fuel from the Golden Ray has been completed

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The St. Simons Sound Incident Response Unified Command has successfully completed the oil pumping of all accessible tanks from the M/V Golden Ray. 

Salvage workers and divers gained access to 26 fuel tanks inside the Golden Ray, some of which were submerged and could only be reached by rappelling and conducting dive operations inside the wreck. Fuel was pumped from the tanks into a barge for proper disposal. The interior of the tanks were then washed with steam to remove residual fuel, which was collected and transferred into containers. More than 320,000 gallons of oil and water mixture were removed. The Unified Command continues the forensic investigation to determine an accurate volume of fuel onboard at the time of the incident and the amount discharged into the environment. 

“I’d like to thank the over 500 women and men who assisted in every aspect of this successful operation,” said Chris Graff of Gallagher Marine Systems. “We’ve relied on the Brunswick community and experts around the world to reach this point and are grateful to all those who contributed” 

“This milestone helps ensure the health of the environment and the livelihoods of the people who rely on the St. Simons Sound. The removal of fuel from the vessel has significantly reduced the remaining threat to the environment” said Jed Hewitt from Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division.

“The completion of the fuel removal allows the Unified Command to move on to our ultimate goal of safely removing the wreck of the Golden Ray. Removal of the vessel will be a highly complex and challenging operation,” said Commander Matt Baer, U.S. Coast Guard. “Unified Command will take every possible measure to ensure the safety of those involved in the operation, the public and the environment.” 

To improve the stability of the wreck, Unified Command has begun the removal of the vessel’s propeller, propeller shaft and rudder, which weighs a total of approximately 130 tons. “Due to the vessel’s orientation on its side, these components are creating a load which the vessel was not designed to support. Imagine holding a milk jug with an outstretched arm compared to the same weight hanging at your side. Removing these components will help reduce the stresses on the hull”  said Chief Warrant Officer Jeremiah Winston, Unified Command Salvage Branch director. “This operation will help sustain the integrity of the wreck while we prepare for its full removal.”

Plans for the construction of an environmental protection barrier and the full removal of the wreck continue to be evaluated and will be made public once a selection is made.

Contact: Joint Information Center (912) 944-7122

Photo Release: Work Barges

Crews onboard the work barges Farrell [left] and Columbia [right], work to clean residual fuel oil from tanks inside the M/V Golden Ray, St. Simons Sound, Dec. 3, 2019. The work barges provide a platform for personnel and equipment to perform various tasks to prepare the wreck for removal.

Photo Release: Vessel Interior Inspection

A marine chemist and a salvage operator assess oiling deep inside the Golden Ray wreck, Nov. 22, 2019. Removing oil from confined spaces safely requires a team of highly experienced maritime experts that guide operations in order to protect the marine environment and response crews around the M/V Golden Ray.

Port of Brunswick commercial vessel traffic opens 24 hours

The Unified Command, working with the Georgia Ports Authority, expanded commercial vessel traffic operations to 24 hours in the Port of Brunswick on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019.

“Reopening the Port of Brunswick to around-the-clock transit means greater flexibility for the shipping lines that call on Brunswick, and more timely service for auto manufacturers and other cargo owners,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch. “We want to thank the Coast Guard, the Brunswick Pilots and all of our partners who have worked tirelessly to bring us to this point.”

The channel will be open to one way traffic as inbound and outbound commercial vessels will have to pass one at a time for the safety of response crews working to prepare the M/V Golden Ray for removal.

“We appreciate the continuing partnership with the Georgia Ports Authority, Brunswick Port and Moran Towing,” said Commander Norm Witt, Federal On Scene Coordinator. “While removing the M/V Golden Ray will take time, minimizing the impact of this incident on the community and protecting the environment are priorities for the Unified Command.”

The St. Simons Sound Incident Unified Command is the official source for information regarding the M/V Golden Ray response operations.

An inbound cargo vessel passes by a work barge next to the M/V Golden Ray, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. The Unified Command, working with the Georgia Ports Authority, expanded commercial vessel traffic operations to 24 hours at the Port of Brunswick.

Keep our crews safe by not flying drones over or near the Golden Ray

The wreck site is located within 5 nautical miles of an airport. Therefore, drones are prohibited without written authorization from the FAA in Class E airspace per Title 14 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) part 107. For more information visit https://bit.ly/33MXPWa

As response crews continue to lighter and prepare the M/V Golden Ray for removal, please don’t fly drones over or near the wreck site. Our crews are working under very challenging conditions and a drone can be a distraction or impede the operation of heavy equipment.

Thank you for your cooperation, St. Simons Sound Unified Command.