IncidentsNews & Reports

High Tech Salvage Cowboys looking into slicing the overturned ‘Golden Ray’ in place instead of using Parbuckling Option

Vessel owners claimed that the pilot and the master took the decision to save the vessel and its crew by grounding her on the bank

The Unified Command, picked up the route of Baltic Ace and  MV Tricolor, over the option of Cougar Ace or the most expensive, approx. U$ 2 Billion, Costa Concordia Salvage Operation

After ‘pure horror’ of the rescue mission, authorities brought a sigh of relief when all POB were safely rescued, after around 30 hours to free four crew members trapped in the vessel’s engine room by making an opening in the hull and now, started pondering, what to do with the Golden Ray?

It all begins on the 8th of September, at approximately 2 a.m., when Glynn County 911 dispatch notified Coast Guard Sector Charleston watchstanders that the M/V Golden Ray had capsized in the St. Simons Sound, along with 24 POB, including Pilot.

The 20,000 DWT, 656 ft long ship rolled over on its port side in the St. Simons Sound in the dark morning hours of Sept. 8 while heading out to sea with a cargo of 4,200 vehicles.

2017 built M/V Golden Ray, listed heavily and caught fire in the St. Simons Sound, was perplexing moment for many in the Industry

Last week, we unfold the story that, Car carrier ‘Golden Ray’ was intentionally grounded by the Pilot and his decision was praised. There are some similarities of this deliberate grounding action with a past event, in which a pure car and truck carrier (PCTC) started listing, flooding and finally grounding in busiest shipping channels of the UK, of which we shared the details within the article.

With the capsized cargo ship blocking commerce and threatening the environment, “This is a complex case,” Coast Guard Commander Norm Witt said last month. “This is definitely something we want to get right the first time.”

Now keeping the above statement in mind, it’s time we’ll look into current happenings, surface similar grounding action, review and pragmatically analyze the salvage solutions from past.

Recent Happenings 

The 656-foot (200 meters) long Golden Ray will have to be taken apart in St. Simons Sound, close to Georgia seacoast, decided by Unified Command.

The Unified Command, which consists of the U.S. Coast Guard, the state Department of Natural Resources and the private sector Gallagher Marine Systems, has made no public statements until now about their plans for the actual salvage of the ship.

Consequently, Unified Command is developing plans to remove all of the M/V Golden Ray’s hull, components, and cargo by disassembling the vessel in place. This remains a complex situation but additional information about the removal plan and the expected timeline will be shared with the public as and when available.

Unified Command has completed the lightering of the forward fuel oil tanks onboard the M/V Golden Ray. More than  225,000 gallons of fuel have been removed to date. Lightering of the remaining fuel and lubricant tanks continues.

Moreover, with the capsized vessel still grounded near the mouth of port’s shipping channel, a MOL car carrier, and a bulker have been allowed to sail in a monitored transit, with an aim to evaluate how the ships’ passing affected the stricken vessel.

Similar Purposeful Grounding by Pilot in the UK

Golden Ray pilot is not the first one in history to conduct this purposeful grounding.

On 3rd of January, 2015 a 179.9 m long 51,000 Tonns car carrier ‘Hoegh Osaka‘ ran aground next to busy shipping lanes in the UK, was also a deliberate action to prevent capsizing.

25 crew members including a pilot were rescued from Hoegh Osaka between Southampton and the Isle of Wight on the same day.

At 2109 (UTC) on 3 January 2015, the pure car and truck carrier (PCTC) Hoegh Osaka was departing Southampton, UK, and turning to port around the Bramble Bank when the vessel developed a significant starboard list.

As the list increased in excess of 40º the ship lost steerage and propulsion and subsequently drifted aground on Bramble Bank. A cargo shift as the vessel listed resulted in breaches to the hull and consequent flooding. All crew was safely evacuated from the ship and surrounding waters.

There was no resulting pollution, and the ship was later successfully salvaged.

Hoegh Osaka was employed to move vehicles between Europe and the Middle East. European ports were usually visited in the order Bremerhaven, Hamburg and, finally, Southampton; bunkering was normally carried out in Hamburg. On this occasion, due to the New Year holidays, the cycle was changed with Southampton being the first European port visited, but the cargo loading plan was not adjusted.

Cargo distribution was such that the upper vehicle decks were fully loaded while the lower vehicle decks were light, changing the Vertical CoG to an upper acceptable threshold limit.

Moreover, Hoegh Osaka was low on bunker fuel oil, which was kept in the tanks under the waterline. With these contributing factors, the ship’s overall vertical center of gravity (VCG) was relatively high.

According to onboard practice, draught readings on the loading computer is adjusted with ballast. It would have been possible for additional ballast prior to departure to reduce the ship’s VCG as necessary, but as the shortcoming in stability had not been identified this was not done.

Also, the figures in the pre-stowage plan were significantly different from the final cargo tally; the estimated calculated weight of many items of cargo was less than their actual weight; and no safety allowance was made for the VCG of the cargo loaded being above deck level, MAIB added.

This incident witnesses and based on anecdotal evidence, and the findings of other available investigations, revealed that it is a general practice in the ro-ro vessels to sail before an accurate departure stability condition has been calculated, on the assumption that their stability condition is safe, due to quick turnaround times.

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