Twenty-One months after the doomed Korean freighter, Golden Ray, capsized in the bay between Brunswick and Saint Simons Island, Georgia, residents may finally be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The salvage operation finally reached the halfway point when the engine section was removed on May 8. Then, less than a week later, as the next cut was being readied, disaster struck again.
The latest setback while attempting to remove Section Three from the remaining shipwreck was fire. Around lunchtime on May 14, cutting operations were brought to a standstill as sparks from the cutting chain ignited some of the oil remaining in the shipwreck resulting in fire. Tugs were dispatched to extinguish the blaze with seawater pumped through massive hoses. The fire halted progress in the cutting operation for almost two weeks.
The cutting has been done by a 400-foot diamond-edged anchor chain attached to a towering crane. Cut five, which separated Section Three from the hull, was about halfway done when the blaze broke out. No injuries were reported, and all non-essential personal were evacuated from the VB-10,000 crane vessel.
On September 8, 2019, the Golden Ray left the Port of Brunswick and headed past Saint Simons Island, Georgia, when it attempted a turn unguided by the pilot boat. The ship was loaded with 4,200 cars, all of which were declared a total loss. Four crew members were still trapped inside after the vessel capsized but were rescued unharmed.
The Golden Ray went aground and capsized off the coast of Saint Simons Island, Georgia, during an outbound transit in calm conditions. A routine turn to starboard became an uncontrolled runaway maneuver, ending with the vessel aground and resting on her side. A staff engineer at the Coast Guard Marine Safety Center told the NTSB that the ship did not have enough ballast for her load. "The cause of the vessel capsizing was lack of righting energy due to the way the vessel was loaded," Lt. Ian Oviatt, said.
Not only was the ship carrying a full load of fuel for its journey, but the cars also contained gas and oil, only adding to the problem of fire and ecological contamination. Even after salvage officials determined the best means to remove the wreckage, each of the cuts through the hull took anywhere from a few weeks to several months to complete.
Fuel oil spillage remains a concern despite the massive ecological barrier that has been erected around the vessel since the beginning. Oil has been found on the shores of both Saint Simons Island, Georgia. Jekyll Island and Brunswick. This is hampered by the swift currents that flow through the narrow shipping channel, partially blocked by the Golden Ray.
U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Michael Himes told The Brunswick News, "When the current picks up, it is swift enough to pull the oil underneath the boom." The Georgia Department of Public Health's Coastal Health District issued a warning to the public, cautioning swimmers and fishermen to watch out for oil near Jekyll Island and St. Simons Island. They warned," "Do not swim or fish in an area with a visible oil sheen."
Saint Simons Island, Georgia, depends on tourism for its primary source of income, and now it hunkers down for the second tourist season that will be hampered by the shipwreck. Of course, last summer, the Covid-19 pandemic compounded the problem causing many small businesses on the island to shutter for good.
As the next cut begins on the Korean shipwreck, Golden Ray, residents of the area watch in anticipation of the final sections finally being removed from their site.