Brunswick, GA

BREAKING NEWS: Cutting and Salvage Operations of Golden Ray Resumes After Another Broken Chain


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Cutting resumes once again on Section Seven of the capsized Korean freighter Golden Ray which capsized near Brunswick, Ga. over a year ago. On Wednesday, a link that connects the pulley system to the massive anchor chain being used to cut the ship broke. The chain then fell into the cut making retrieval difficult to re-attach the grade 4 forged steel anchor chain to a crane. The Unified Command Response team estimates that the cut was about half-finished when the link broke.

Broken chains are just one of the many problems that have hampered and delayed salvage operations since the ship capsized in 2019. Salvage operations began in late September 2019, about three weeks after the 656-foot Golden Ray caught fire and capsized while leaving the port of Brunswick, Georgia. All 24 of the crew on board were rescued, but all 42,000 vehicles, mostly Hyundais and Kias were lost.

The first thing that had to be done was removing 300,000 gallons of fuel as the tanks had just been topped off before leaving port. Fortunately, commercial traffic in and out of the port of Brunswick has continued, although at a slower and more distanced rate. It then took months of evaluation to determine that the ship couldn't be righted and towed and that cutting and salvage were the only options. Next, massive iron lugs had to be welded to the hull so that a giant crane could lift the sections as each cut was completed.

Two sections, One and Eight, have already been removed. The first section, through trial and error, took almost a month last November. The second section, the bow, was completed in just over a week in January.

Considering the fact that the bow section was about 1,000 cubic feet and weighed over 6,000 tons, this was an engineering miracle.

Work on the removal of the third section has been going on for about two weeks. In addition to the broken chain, low tides and fast currents have impaired the Unified Command tasked with salvaging the ship. In addition to the cutting operation itself, salvage crews have to drill holes along the hull for future cuts while divers remove sediment and debris blocking the chain and the cutting slot.

Forty vessels have been involved in the salvage operation, including the VB 10,000 crane vessel used to handle the anchor chain that is cutting the hull into eight sections. Holes are being drilled into the hull along the cutting lines to assist and speed up the cut. Each section is being loaded and secured onto a barge that is then sailed into the Mayors Point Terminal in Brunswick. There, the load is secured further for deep-sea travel before being transported to the salvage and recycling company in Gibson, Louisiana. Four dry dock barges have been waiting for the next sections since late January.

Hopefully, sometime this year, St. Simons Sound and the shipping channel to and from the port of Brunswick will be returned to their past beauty. The residents of both St Simons and Jekyll islands between which the ship now rests will be happy to see the last of it. Views from St Simons pier of the beautiful Syndey Lanier suspension bridge at sunset has been ruined by the shipwreck for sixteen months, with many more to come.

The U. S. Coast Guard continues to evaluate the environmental impact of the ship. Not only at the site itself but also near Quarantine Island, Lanier Island, and the Back, Mackay, and Frederica Rivers' confluence. Local salt-water marshes have also reported oil sheens at high tide. The ultimate cost to the area is yet to be determined.

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Alpharetta, GA

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