Coronavirus Delays Capsized Cargo Ship Removal in Georgia

By | July 20, 2020

Coronavirus infections among the salvage crew are delaying plans to cut apart and remove a hulking cargo ship that capsized off the coast of Georgia 10 months ago.

Officials had hoped to start slicing the South Korean freighter Golden Ray into eight giant pieces in mid-July. Now some final preparations have come to a halt after nine workers tested positive for COVID-19 and are in quarantine, according to Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer John Miller.

“We’re doing our own contact tracing using CDC guidelines and people who were in contact with those folks, they’re isolating out of an abundance of caution,” said Miller. “As a consequence of that, the timeline has shifted a little bit to the right.”

Miller said it’s unclear how long the infections and precautions will delay demolition of the shipwreck, but the command still hopes to start by the end of July. The salvage team has 260-plus total members.

The team initially hoped to remove the ship’s large sections before hurricane season began June 1. By March, the goal shifted to beating the Atlantic hurricane season’s most active period, which typically starts in August.

Even if cutting operations overlap with the storm season’s peak, “we’re still planning to pursue it and get it going,” Miller said. “We’re not anticipating waiting or delaying until after the hurricane season.”

The Golden Ray has been beached on its side off St. Simons Island since Sept. 8, when the ship capsized shortly after leaving the Port of Brunswick. The vessel measures 656 feet long and 4,200 automobiles remain inside its cargo decks. Engineers decided the shipwreck was too badly damaged to be removed intact. Instead, a towering, floating crane will straddle the shipwreck and saw it into pieces using massive anchor chains.

The Golden Ray will leave the Georgia coast in eight chunks. The automobiles inside will either be hauled off in a bundle with the huge ship pieces or fall into the water for retrieval later.

The floating crane docked in early July at Fernandina Beach, Florida, for final adjustments.

Overall, cutting and removing the Golden Ray is expected to take about seven weeks, Miller said. Cleanup of debris from the water will follow.

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Insurance Journal West July 20, 2020
July 20, 2020
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