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Quarries come to rescue for ship salvage operation

More than 6000 tonnes of aggregate is being sourced from quarries across the US state of Georgia to prevent erosion of the seafloor around a capsized cargo ship.

The M/V Golden Ray has been resting on its side in shallow water in St Simons Sound after it ran aground in early September with more than 4000 vehicles on board.

First responders initially saved 20 crew members before a fire thwarted the rescue effort. The four remaining trapped crew members were later saved after rescuers drilled holes in the hull and pulled them to safety, NPR reported.

The focus has now shifted to minimising the environmental impact of the overturned vessel before it is dismantled and removed from the area in sections.

As part of its response, the St Simon Sound Unified Command team has begun strategically placing rock around the hull to slow seafloor erosion and stabilise the vessel.

According to the command unit, trucks are delivering approximately 6000 tonnes of 25mm to 75mm aggregate from several quarries located across Georgia.

Once the material reaches the shoreline, it is being loaded on to a barge and then placed on the seafloor using knuckle boom excavators. GPS and sonar technology are helping guide the placement of the aggregate in real time.

“Strong area tidal currents in the sound have been causing erosion and transporting sediment,” a St Simon Sound Unified Command team spokesperson said.

“Once the vessel is completely dismantled and transferred out of the sound, the rocks will be removed using excavators with sieve buckets.”

Ongoing clean-up

An unknown quantity of oil has leaked from the ship into the harbour. Response crews have been collecting oiled debris from nearby marshes and spraying a peat absorbent on the grass to prevent it from sticking to other surfaces and animals.

Other responders have also rappelled into the hull of M/V Golden Ray to allow for oil spill equipment that has removed oil from the steering gear room. There is thought to be 1.1 million litres of fuel and oil on the ship.

A plan to disassemble and remove the ship was expected to be in place by mid-November.

A boom excavator lays aggregate under the hull of the M/V Golden Ray to prevent erosion. Image courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources.


Reid Jackson, of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, inspects gravel to be used for the operation. Image courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Rescue crews rappel into the capsized ship to install equipment that pumps out oil and fuel. Image courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Response crews collect oiled debris from marshes near St Simon Bay. Image courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

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