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Sustainability Stories: January 2022

Golden Ray Part 1: Gallagher's role

Tuesday, January 4, 2022  by qrelihan

               On September 8, 2019, the Golden Ray cargo ship capsized in St Simons Sound, near Georgia’s Port of Brunswick.  At the time of the incident, there were 24 crew members on board, along with over 4,000 cars.  The 656-foot ship capsized due to miscalculations regarding the vessel’s stability; therefore, when it turned, it was not stable enough to complete it without capsizing (St Simon Sound Response Page 2021).  All 24 crew members were rescued from the ship, and the cars are still being retrieved from the bottom of the sound via crane. The removal process of the Golden Ray was done by cutting it into eight sections which started in February 2020, and the final section was cut and removed this September 2021.  Therefore, the Golden Ray was deemed a complete loss, and the eight sections of Golden Ray were brought to a salvage yard in Louisiana.

               I had the opportunity to speak with Jason Maddox a Senior Response Manager for Gallagher Marine Systems (GMS), who is assigned as the Planning Section Chief for this response and was able to provide insight on what the process of responding to an emergency response looks like. Before any cuts were made to the vessel, MER under GMS direction, was brought on as a subcontractor to provide environmental support.  It was the responsibility of MER to contain and respond to an oil spill or other contaminants that could have ended up in the surrounding environment.  MER was there when the Golden Ray was considered an emergency in the beginning and stayed until the end when it transitioned to the project phase. MER was hired to support the effort and works with Gallagher Marine Systems, the Coast Guard, and the State of Georgia to safely remove and dispose of debris from the vessel, including parts of the vehicles that were on board at the time. 

              Accidents such as the Golden Ray capsizing in St Simons Sound with 24 crew members and 4,000 vehicles on board are impossible to predict.  However, just because you cannot predict when incidents like that will happen does not mean that a plan for response cannot be created.  Planning is arguably one of the most critical aspects of any emergency response.  Included in the planning process is the Vessel Response plan (VRP) required by the USCG. A VRP is an all-encompassing emergency response plan because it outlines which OSRO’s, salvage companies and QI’s or Spill Management teams (SMT) will be utilized should an emergency arise. Once a response is necessary and you have activated your Vessel Response plan, all other actions are developed by the SMT and are specific to the incident and area it happens.  When it comes to writing plans for an emergency response, such as the capsizing of the Golden Ray, the Incident Command System (ICS) Planning Section starts by taking the actions outlined in the VRP and then from there tailor the response to the situation. As the Planning Section Chief, Jason Maddox, along with his team of about 15 people, were the ones who wrote the plans for the Golden Ray response while taking into consideration input from Subject Matter Experts (SME’s), such as Salvage or Environmental technical specialists.

              When it comes to an incident like the Golden Ray, there were many plans written for all phases of response, including one for the demobilization of crews and equipment. All plans have to be reviewed by Jason Maddox before they can be passed to the Incident Commander, who then gives the final go-ahead.  For instance, there was a plan for how to cut the ship, the number of pieces and the order in which the pieces would be removed.  If the plan is rejected by Incident Command, then the Planning Section would go back to the drawing board, work with SME’s and other stakeholders and make the necessary adjustments to the plan.  Where one plan ends, the next one begins, so when a global pandemic happens, it can interrupt the progress of the response. However, in the case of the Golden Ray, it did not because the planning section was able to work within CDC guidelines to create a safe working environment, building health and safety procedures into the plan. 

              Since it is no longer in the emergency response phase and all that is left is debris, the Coast Guard has begun demobilizing from its role in the project.  The State of Georgia is committed to continued partnership with Gallagher until there is no longer evidence of debris washing up on its coastline. Therefore, companies like MER and Gallagher personnel must remain there until the debris is gone.  In fact, as of December 2021, Jason Maddox says he is still sending crews out every day to clean up debris that washes ashore from St Simons Sound.  The major operations of removing the vessel from the sound has been completed; the primary focus is debris and waste removal. 

             The Golden Ray response has transitioned to the project phase since the threat has decreased, and crews are working to clean up the sound and remove contaminants from the water. For instance, a few weeks ago, crews pulled 790 cars and 54 pieces of interior decking from St Simons Sound (First Coast News Staff 2021). There continues to be a barge, equipment, and a containment barrier at the site to provide continued environmental monitoring and clean up with the goal of ultimately leaving St. Simons Sound in its original state.

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Sustainability Trends for 2022

Monday, January 3, 2022  by qrelihan

Sustainability Trends & Stories to Follow in 2022:

      In 2021, world leaders gathered in Glasgow, Scotland for COP 26 where a variety of environmental commitments were made.  These climate change commitments will affect governments, businesses, and individual lifestyles in the upcoming year.  Below is a list of sustainability trends, stories, and commitments to follow this year.

Increase in electric vehicle production

One of the biggest statements to come out of the COP 26 was that countries are only going to sell electric vehicles by 2040 or earlier.  This will not happen overnight, but you should be able to see manufacturers making progress to producing more electric vehicles. 

Net zero emission pledges are supported by data

Since many countries are committed to achieving net zero emissions within the next 20-30 years, the expectation is that companies will have to show that they too are making genuine efforts to become net zero.  

An end to deforestation

At the COP 26 conference the leaders of more than 100 countries agreed to end deforestation by 2030. This will be a harder commitment to check-in on but since it was made by more than 100 countries, there will be government regulators as well as advocacy groups monitoring this statement closely.

      Even though all the commitments listed above have deadlines 10-20 years in the future it is important to watch what actions are taken this year to help reach that goal in 10-20 years.  Buzzwords such as net zero emissions will become commonplace on news broadcasts and articles.  Be sure to keep in mind that having a plan to achieve the commitments are much more important than the commitment themselves.  As the year continues, the list of trends and stories will grow and change regarding priority but as of January 2022 these are the ones to watch.

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