The unified command overseeing the salvage of the Golden Ray wreck in St. Simons Sound, Georgia has said that salvage operations will be delayed further due to “engineering challenges” related to the mooring system of VB10000 heavy lift vessel.
As a result, cutting and lifting operations at the wreck site are expected to be delayed by several weeks.
The St. Simons Sounds Incident Response explained the issue in a statement on Wednesday:
“Engineers with the response designed an array of five anchors that accounted for multiple challenging variables such as extreme currents in the sound, restrictions to movement due to the Environmental Protection Barrier (EPB) and proximity to the shipping channel. After successfully installing and pull-testing four anchors, the remaining anchor at the most challenging mooring site in the system did not meet its pull-test requirements.
“The Unified Command (UC) is reviewing multiple options for a revised anchor system and will make a decision that ensures the safety of responders and the public, safeguards the surrounding environment as well as provides for the continuation of commerce in the port,” the statement said.
The Golden Ray, a roll-on/roll-off pure car and truck carrier (PCTC), remains stable and environmental monitoring is continuing around the clock. Approximately 400 personnel and 50 on-water assets including tugs, barges and response vessels continue preparations to cut and lift the wreck.
The Golden Ray was carrying about 4,200 vehicles when it lost stability and grounded as it departed the Port of Brunswick more than a year ago in September 2019. All vehicles remain inside the ship’s cargo holds.
In order to dismantle the wreck, salvors have opted to cut it into eight large sections for removal by barge. The VB-10000, which is equipped with twin gantry cranes, has been modified specifically for the cutting and lifting operation.
An anchor test involving the VB-10000 was conducted late last month involving the anchor-hauling tug Kurt Crosby, which involved setting the array of anchor moorings.
The latest delay is just another hurdle in the salvage operation, one of the largest marine salvages in U.S. history. In July, on-site operations were suspended due to impacts from COVID-19 as several workers tested positive for the virus.
Operations were planned to resume October 1. The Incident Command has said previously the cutting and lifting operation is expected to take eight weeks.
The St. Simons Sound Incident UC is composed of Gallagher Marine Systems as the representative of the responsible party (RP), Georgia Department of Natural Resources as the State On-scene Coordinator (SOSC) and the U.S. Coast Guard as the Federal On-Scene Coordinator (FOSC).