While they are still trying to decide on the best type of barrier to build around the Golden Ray, Unified Command has settled on an outfit to cut up and remove the 656-foot shipwreck from the St. Simons Sound, officials announced late Tuesday.
Texas-based T&T Salvage LLC has been hired to remove the wreck that has sat overturned in the sound between St. Simons and Jekyll island for four months. T&T Salvage was chosen from among six bidders, which included DonJon-SMIT, the maritime emergency contractor that originally responded to the Golden Ray crisis. With the contract awarded to T&T Salvage, DonJon-SMIT has completed its involvement with the Golden Ray operation, said Chris Graff of Gallagher Marine Systems. Gallagher Marine Systems represents the Golden Ray and its insurers in Unified Command, which also consists of the Coast Guard and the state Department of Natural Resources.
The New Jersey-based DonJon-SMIT was the initial responder to the shipwreck, which occurred in the dark morning hours of Sept. 8 when the Golden Ray overturned while heading out to sea with a cargo of 4,200 vehicles. DonJon-SMIT played a crucial role in rescuing the four crewmen who were trapped deep in the stern of the ship after it capsized. The four South Korean maritime merchants were plucked from a hole cut in the hull of the ship more than 34 hours after the wreck. All 24 crewmen were safely rescued. DonJon-SMIT continued to play a key role in later developments, from the removal of more than 300,000 gallons of fuel from the ship to the removal of its rudder and propeller.
“We’d like to thank the initial response contractor, DonJon-SMIT, for their hard work and commitment throughout this project,” Graff said. “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.”
Though the company is based in Texas, T&T Salvage has offices worldwide.
The company was chosen for its extensive experience in the field of maritime demolition, Graff said. The ship’s owners determined T&T Salvage was best-qualified for the job, said Unified Command spokesman and Coast Guardsman Nate Littlejohn.
“T&T Salvage is known worldwide in the maritime industry and submitted a very thorough salvage plan that was evaluated as being the safest and most efficient,” Littlejohn said. “After carefully considering multiple bid proposals and reviewing risk projections associated with each, the owners of the Golden Ray decided to use a different resource provider for this unique situation to better affect a more successful response.”
Unified Command is still trying to determine the best type of barrier to build around the ship before demolition begins, a measure intended to prevent mitigate pollution and environmental damage. Once that is decided, Unified Command said it will release a timeline for the ship’s removal and other details about the process.
“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.”