ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Texas-based salvage company T&T Salvage has been hired to remove the Golden Ray from St. Simons Island Sound, the St. Simons Sound Incident Response Unified Command announced this week.
The 656-foot cargo ship was carrying more than 4,000 new cars when it ran aground and overturned in early September. Rescue teams rescued four crew members who were trapped inside and then hospitalized. The ship, which has been lying on its side in the St. Simons Sound for four months, will be disassembled in place.
T&T Salvage was one of six bidders to apply for the job. According to its website, it has extensive experience in maritime demolition. Unified Command said the plan is to cut up the Golden Ray and remove the ship, piece by piece.
T&T Salvage’s website boasts one of the most extensive emergency response networks in the world. Its resources include, but aren’t limited to fast response firefighting systems, high capacity dewatering pumps, anti-pollution systems, inert gas generators, and nitrogen generators. It also says its portable assets are complemented by floating heavy lift and salvage support vessels ready to meet both routine and emergency response challenges.
The company has assisted in a number of maritime salvages, with the Golden Ray looking to be its next big project.
Sue Inman, with the Altamaha Riverkeeper, said with the salvage company hired to take on the task, many questions remain.
“Our biggest concern is not knowing what the plan is for decreasing the environmental impacts from potential contaminants off the ship when they start taking it apart,” Inman said.
The two cranes previously seen around the ship were no longer there Wednesday. The bottom of the ship, viewed from Jekyll Island, shows a thin black line, indicating oil. At this time, it’s unknown how much oil the Golden Ray released, but according to Altamaha Riverkeepers, that is more visible because the Golden Ray is starting to tip.
"It is confirmed that 30 miles of our coast have been impacted by oil contaminant from the ship," Inman said.
Inman told News4Jax more than 300 birds have been seen with oil on their feathers, and with 50,000 contaminants on the ship plus more than 4,000 cars on board, the question is what will happen when the salvage company begins removing the Golden Ray, piece by piece.
Last month, the Unified Command confirmed that the ship’s rudder and propeller were successfully removed, saying it took out roughly 130 tons of weight and reduced stress on the ship’s hull.
Also this week, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources shared new video, showing crews place those pieces about 20 miles east-southeast of St. Simons Island in an artificial reef.
The Unified Command said it is still working to determine the best barrier to build around the Golden Ray ahead of demolition. From there, a better timeline on when it can start will be announced.