Episode 154 – A Project Story:  The Largest Wreck Removal in US History

Episode #154
Original Air Date: 06.06.2022

32 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Matt Cooke

“The largest wreck removal operation in United States history” is how this extraordinary project has been labeled. On 8 September 2019, shortly after starting her voyage, the Golden Ray cargo ship capsized within the Port of Brunswick's harbor in the state of Georgia. The 656-ft. car carrier, transporting 4,200 brand new vehicles, had traveled only 23 minutes when she started to list. All 23 crewmen on board as well as an American maritime pilot survived the incident.

Our guest Matt Cooke, a lead project manager with Texas-based T&T Salvage LLC, describes the bold plan to remove the wreck from the Georgia coastline, and the complicated logistics behind the cutting of this vessel. We were particularly interested in hearing Matt talk about the obstacles and many challenges which they had to overcome as they implemented their removal plan. From severe weather, ocean tides, environmental pollution, COVID disruptions, to equipment breakages, Matt explains how the salvage teams stayed focused in spite of these relentless obstacles. Listen in as Matt defines some risk management and leadership lessons he obtained as the project manager on this enormous project.

Following advanced studies in Civil Engineering at Cooper Union College, Matthew graduated from New York Maritime College with a degree in Naval Architecture. Since 2013, he has become an integral part of the T&T Salvage team providing engineering, project management, logistics, planning, cost analysis and operational support. He has managed and been actively involved in large scale salvage and emergency response operations in the US and abroad. Of note, is Matt’s leadership during T&T Salvage’s successful removal of the Golden Ray wreck. He served as one of the two lead project managers of the project, working closely with the UNIFIED COMMAND, USCG and other stakeholders from tendering to completion.

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Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"... my biggest job as the project manager was to keep looking ahead and trying to think about what’s next, what’s the next challenge we’re going to face, ... because that’s where I needed to kind of keep ahead of our teams and try to make sure that we were thinking a few steps down the road so that we weren’t coming up to those roadblocks unprepared."

- Matt Cooke

"So it was ...continually to stay abreast and listen to people. That’s ...a key aspect. You never know where a good idea, or input, or critical piece of information that you’re going to need, may come from. So you’ve got to be listening to the various people on your teams."

- Matt Cooke

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The podcast for project managers by project managers. Matt Cooke, a lead project manager with Texas-based T&T Salvage LLC, describes the bold plan to remove the Golden Ray wreck from the Georgia coastline. Hear about the many obstacles and challenges the team had to overcome in this extraordinary wreck removal project.

Table of Contents

01:19 … The Golden Ray Wreck
03:30 … Meet Matt
05:37 … T&T Salvage and the Golden Ray Project
06:25 … Project Collaborations and Stakeholders
08:38 … The Plan to Remove the Wreck
10:13 … The Size of the Project
11:19 … Project Timeline
12:28 … The Cutting of the Wreck
14:22 … Dealing With Obstacles
14:41 … Safety
15:35 … Ocean Tides
16:36 … Weather and Environmental Protection
17:27 … COVID
19:19 … Risk Management Strategy
22:02 … Keeping the Team Motivated
23:36 … Forward Planning
24:52 … Final Piece Removed
26:23 … Final Destination
27:28 … Reflecting on the Project
29:20 … Find Out More
31:11 … Closing

Matt Cooke: I think my biggest job as the project manager was to keep looking ahead and trying to think about what’s next, what’s the next challenge we’re going to face, what’s the next task on our to-do list and trying to stay ahead of that because that’s where I needed to kind of keep ahead of our teams and try to make sure that then we were thinking a few steps down the road so that we weren’t coming up to those roadblocks unprepared. 

WENDY GROUNDS:  You’re listening to Manage This.  My name is Wendy Grounds, and with me in the studio is Bill Yates.  This is the podcast about project management.  We like to bring you stories about projects and the leadership lessons and the wise advice that you can hear from industry experts from all around the world who have carried out successful projects.

And one of those stories is going to be brought to us today by our guest, Matt Cooke.  Matt is an integral part of the T&T Salvage Team, he provides engineering, project management, planning, cost analysis, and operational support.  He has been actively involved in large-scale salvage and emergency response operations in the U.S. and abroad.  He was on leadership of the T&T Salvage successful removal of the Golden Ray wreck.  And he was one of the two lead project managers on this project.  And Bill’s going to tell us a little bit about this fascinating project.

The Golden Ray Wreck

BILL YATES:  Yes.  The Golden Ray wreck, let’s talk about that.  That’s the largest wreck removal operation in United States history.  On September 8, 2019, the Golden Ray capsized within the Port of Brunswick’s harbor shortly after getting underway.  The ship departed the dock in Brunswick shortly after midnight and had traveled only 23 minutes when she started to list.  The serious listing caused the port to close immediately.  The good news is all 23 crewmen onboard survived, including the three engineers who were in the ship’s engine room at the time of the incident.

Now, the vessel, the Golden Ray, was carrying 4,200 brand new Kia and Hyundai cars that had been manufactured in Mexico.

WENDY GROUNDS:  And they didn’t survive.

BILL YATES:  No, they did not survive.  If you want a water-damaged Kia, yeah.  The incident was mentioned as related to a sudden loss of stability.  So if you’re wondering, you know, how did this occur, it was a sudden loss of stability, possibly due to cargo stowage and incorrect water ballasting.  It was an NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board, report in August of 2021 that determined the cause of sinking to be a combination of factors, things like incorrect figures had been entered in the ship’s stability calculation program, which was used to determine the proper levels for ballast tanks. And there was no procedure to verify those calculations. 

This left the ship unstable.  And as she made a sharp turn 23 minutes into her voyage, when exiting the channel, that’s when trouble came up.  To complicate things, when the ship heeled to port, the open port side pilot door allowed water to enter.  Other watertight doors that were not properly closed also allowed flooding, so she capsized.

WENDY GROUNDS:  That’s really sad.  We’re going to add some videos into the transcript, as well, so that you can take a look at that.

BILL YATES:  Yes, I do encourage folks to take a look.  It is massive, and Matt will describe it a bit.  Even just think about that many vehicles, 4,200 vehicles in a ship, and it’s 200 meters long.  So that’s, what, two football fields for those in the United States.  It’s massive; right?  And his team’s job was to get rid of it.  So let’s get into the details with Matt.

Meet Matt

WENDY GROUNDS:  Hi, Matt.  Welcome to Manage This.  Thank you so much for joining us today.

MATT COOKE:  Thank you.  I’m glad to be here.

WENDY GROUNDS:  We want to find out a little bit about you before we talk about your project.  I see that you are a project manager and a naval architect.  Can you tie in a little bit of what a naval architect does and how that fits into project management?

MATT COOKE:  Sure.  So naval architects are basically engineers for ships or anything floating on the water.  So I went through an engineering degree, studied naval architecture at SUNY Maritime College, and have gradually grown more into the project management side.  Many naval architects deal with design of ships or smaller boats and vessels.  I am a salvage naval architect. So our company deals with emergency response of ships around the world, whether it be collisions, groundings, any sort of emergency on the water we’ll respond to.

BILL YATES:  So you have a packed bag.  You’re ready to go at all times, I would imagine.

MATT COOKE:  Yes.  This industry is very dynamic.  We never know when we’re going to get the call, where it’s going to be, what the situation’s going to be – ship on fire, ship sinking.  So it’s a lot of high-stress environments, and also just never know where; right?  Our core business, of course, is the U.S.; but we have offices around the world so we’ll respond globally, which keeps things definitely interesting, as well.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, it’d be fun to just flip the pages in Matt’s passport and see all the stamps.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah, yeah.

BILL YATES:  So how long have you been with T&T Salvage?

MATT COOKE:  So I’ve been with T&T just over eight years now.  I actually joined initially as an intern.  Went back, finished my last semester, and then joined full-time.  So it’s been definitely a growth period, right; starting kind of from the ground up and then just gradually getting into it more.

WENDY GROUNDS:  What are some of the interesting places you’ve been to?

MATT COOKE:  So probably the most random would be Guam; Tunisia.  We’ve done a project down in South America so I’ve been to Argentina; Uruguay.  Singapore.  It’s a very global industry so we kind of go all over the place.

T&T Salvage and the Golden Ray Project

WENDY GROUNDS:  Matt, T&T Salvage was called in to be part of this project.  Can you tell us a bit about that and how T&T Salvage became involved?

MATT COOKE:  Yes.  One of our representative teams was there in the early response, helping to rescue some of the crew members that were trapped in the engine room.  So that was kind of our initial interaction with the project.  Then we weren’t involved for a number of months.  And then an invitation to tender, or a bid proposal request came out.  And so that was how we kind of got the invitation to submit our proposal for the wreck removal operation.  That was around November of 2019. And we submitted that there as we kind of built our plan with our team and then went through the whole contracting and bidding process, working eventually to be awarded the contract.

Project Collaborations and Stakeholders

BILL YATES:  When I think about a project of this magnitude, of all the different partners that have to, you know, on some jobs you’re competing against each other.  And now on this job you’re working together.  So talk a little bit about the collaboration that you’d have with this particular project.

MATT COOKE:  Yes.  So it’s definitely a collaborative effort.  There’s a lot of different companies that have to come to the table in order to make something this magnitude come together.  We’re talking engineering firms, diving contractors, all the different tug operators that we had involved, welding teams, crane operators, you’ve got really the gamut of professions for something of this scale that gets involved, many of which we’ve had contacts and contracts with before.  And so we kind of build with our core team. And then we get into some more specialty areas that were unique to the project.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Who were your major stakeholders that you had to work with?

MATT COOKE:  Yes.  So as part of the instant response team in the U.S. you have what’s called an ICS, or Instant Command System.  So at that structure, at the top is what’s called the Unified Command.  And on the Unified Command that representative from the United States Coast Guard, the State of Georgia represented by their Department of Natural Resources, and then a client representative who was from Gallagher Marine Systems.  So those were kind of the key stakeholders that had to approve all of our plans, review the various operations, make sure everything was going to be conducted in a safe manner.  And then you also had more stakeholders kind of on the periphery that were the other governmental agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA Fisheries.

And then our other financial side of it. The vessel’s insurance company who were a close partner with us, working together during all the operations and evolutions.  So really kind of a multitude of stakeholders that we had to work with.  Sometimes we were all on the same page, and sometimes it took some communication to try to understand each other and everyone’s viewpoint so that we could get to a good plan that met everyone’s needs and look at the safety of the responders and the environment, which is really the key.

The Plan to Remove the Wreck

BILL YATES:  Matt, I picked up on a keyword that you said as we started to talk about the project plan.  I can’t help but point out or underline that you said “evolutions” because this was a project where you had to start out with a plan and then make adjustments as you moved forward.  So talk about the original plan.  What was the plan to remove the wreck?

MATT COOKE:  Yes.  So our proposal was based on what we call “large section demolition,” which basically involves cutting the wreck into eight sections and then removing these pieces and taking them for scrap.  So that’s kind of the quick and dirty in a nutshell.  Of course, in order to do that there’s a lot of different aspects that had to take place in order to make that happen.  We had to of course do all the engineering to make sure that everything would actually work out as we envisioned it.  Had to do a lot of preparation on the wreck in terms of building the structure that would allow us to lift these massive pieces.  There were environmental considerations, an environmental protection barrier that was built.  So kind of a lot of different things that went into our plan.

And overall that plan as a whole didn’t change.  It’s really the tactical aspects of how we went about doing those things that we had to continually adjust on a daily basis to be more efficient, to adapt to the various challenges that we had.  So that kind of overarching plan for the project remained the same. And then the methodology, the type of chain, the forces that were used to do certain things, those are kind of what we had to then adapt and adjust as we went through the process.

Size of the Project

BILL YATES:  Just to give people a sense for that, so you have this huge ship.  Give us an idea of how long the ship is and then talk about that chain and how that was used to do the cutting.

MATT COOKE:  Yes, so the ship is 200 meters long.  It’s built in 2017, so it was in really good structure.  It’s a car carrier, right, so it has many decks with various types of car-type cargo.  It had some trucks onboard, various different types of vehicles. Many of them new, which was a shame in that regard.  And it was sitting on its side; right?  So half of the ship was in the water; half of the ship was out of the water.  At least with some of the structure exposed it allowed us to do a lot more versus if we would be having to conduct all our operations underwater because diving operations become a lot more complex.  So really it was a really big wreck there. 

And thankfully it was out of the channel. So it wasn’t interfering with the flow of vessels coming into the Port of Brunswick, which would have presented a whole ton more challenges and really put a lot more pressure on the situation.

Project Timeline

WENDY GROUNDS:  What was your timeline on the project?

MATT COOKE:  So of course, as all the best plans, as soon as you start to come into some issues, things start to change there.  Initially we were picturing around a year or so to conduct all the operations.  Back in January of 2020 we conducted all of our  engineering and a lot of those preparations in terms of getting the wreck ready to be cut and be lifted.  We executed that next stage of the contract in February of 2020 and then went through that continued period of preparation up until kind of a June timeline when we started to really get some COVID impacts on the project, and started to approach hurricane season. 

We took a pause for about two months or so, and then picked back up around September of that year, and then began cutting on the wreck in November of 2020 and completed all the cutting and lifting evolution in early September of 2021.  So the actual cutting and lifting duration was about a year. And then kind of a year plus the pause prior to that.

The Cutting of the Wreck

BILL YATES:  Just give a sense to the listeners as to how you were cutting it.  You’re not up there with a gigantic Sawzall that you could pick up at Home Depot.  How did you guys cut through this fairly new constructed ship?

MATT COOKE:  Yes.  So what we used was a method called “chain cutting”.  And contrary to what some may think, it doesn’t operate like a chainsaw would.  It’s basically using brute force.  So we’re using what’s called a “three-inch anchor chain”.  So that’s the diameter of each of the links is three inches.  It’s these massive pieces of chain that just break through the steel with brute force.  So we used the auxiliary blocks on the VB-10,000, that was our heavy-lift asset.  If you’ve seen any pictures of it, it’s that big yellow structure with the arches.  And so we would basically pull back and forth in somewhat of a sawing motion with this chain and gradually eat through each of the sections. Some of them going a lot easier than others, varying on the internal structures that we faced.

Some of the areas, especially near the engine room, are a lot more reinforced.  There’s a lot more steel there to cut through.  But really it was a clean cut, surprisingly, as you consider that the size of these chain links, we would cut through a piece of car, just right in half, and looked pretty clean.  Definitely we’ve had to adapt and adjust our loads going forward.  And then as we got into certain parts of the wreck we saw that we had to increase the strength of some of the chain we were using to  prevent some of the  breakages that were happening. 

We saw a lot of the connecting links begin to fail.  And then we start to swap out those links when we knew we were reaching an amount of cycles that we had seen previous failures.  So there was a lot of adapting and adjusting to increase our efficiency as we went through the various cuts.

BILL YATES:  That’s massive.

Dealing with Obstacles

WENDY GROUNDS:  I’m sure you faced many other obstacles and challenges, as well, in this project.  You’ve mentioned, you know, just the size of the chain and knowing how to cut, and just the challenge of that.  And you’ve mentioned COVID.  Would you mind just going through some of the obstacles that you have faced and how you overcame these?

Safety

MATT COOKE:  Yes, so on a project of this scale, of course, we had challenges around every corner.  And adapting to all of those definitely took a lot of effort and a lot of teamwork to be able to conquer them.  Of course, our core focus is to keep all of our responders safe.  I think that was really the first challenge, getting everyone to and from the wreck, getting everyone safely on top of the wreck when you had a 10-degree angle on top of the wreck, and making sure that everyone stays safe up there. 

So we had to implement a lot of protocols in terms of tracking of people, a lot of safety plans, job safety analysis prior to doing operations. Keeping in mind the PPE and having dedicated safety officers.  So altogether that led to a collective three million man hours without a major incident. Which was quite an achievement on that site.  We were very proud of it in that regard.

Ocean Tides

And then moving from the safety aspect, of course, this area in St. Simons Sound, prone to a lot of thunderstorms, which shut down operations here and there, and was really an area with extreme tidal fluctuations which affects diving ops, affects moving some of our assets around.  So we had four slack tides.  These are periods between the movement of the tide where there’s very little movement in the water.  And those were the only times where we could conduct our dive operations or move some of our larger floating assets around. 

So everything needed to be planned around these slack tide periods.  That became an integral part in terms of our project planning, making sure we were making use of these slack tide changes.  And then it was an eight-foot tidal difference.  So when you had a low tide to high tide, you’re talking an eight-foot difference, that had to be considered in the various mooring operations and whatever structures we were installing on the wreck, that we could make use of those even with tidal change.

Weather and Environment Protection

We faced a very busy hurricane season in 2020. And that was something that we had to stay ahead of, making sure all of these assets and people stayed safe.  Of course the environment and protecting it is such a sensitive area there.  So we installed this environmental protection barrier which was a tiered system  consisting of mesh that would prevent large floating debris like cars from going out into the Sound.  Had an HDPE floating pipe that would help collect some of the floating debris, followed by a containment ocean boom to contain any floating hydrocarbons in that area so that they could be picked up.  So that pollution, of course, and mitigating that was the key aspect that was made clear to us very early on and something we tried to incorporate in all of our operations.

COVID

And then of course we touched on COVID.  So that was really probably the most unexpected challenge that we faced.  Everything else we knew were going to face it, maybe to different magnitudes.  But COVID definitely took everybody by surprise.  And we continued on in the early months of COVID, implementing some protocols, temperature checks.  And then gradually, as we started to get further into it, began to have bigger impacts and saw that bigger mitigation measure was needed. Which is part of why we went to that pause period was to implement this COVID mitigation protocol.

We lucked out that there was a facility nearby, a retreat center that we were able to work with and contract. So all of our people that were working offshore we put in this tier called Tier 1, and they had to do a mandatory 14-day quarantine, cut out from the outside world, no interaction, everything provided for them there, and then do their rotation inside what we called “the bubble,” where they would continue to be isolated from the outside world.  And we’d provide them food in there, housing, runners to pick up items from Target or other places for them.  And they did their rotation in there for 75 days plus, some people staying in quite long.  Altogether for that tier of people we had no COVID impact in that tier with that mitigation measure embraced.

Our other teams that had to be interacting with our other contractors and other sort of vendors and stuff like that, we had some impacts.  But some of us can continue to work, even if we were in quarantine, from a computer behind a desk so did our best to mitigate that. And overall really kept us on track to keep those critical offshore teams safe from COVID.

Risk Management Strategy

BILL YATES:  Matt, this is so rich.  I’ve got to highlight again that you mentioned you guys had three million man hours without a safety incident.  That blows me away when I look at the pictures of this project.  That is so impressive that you guys reached that goal and that feat.  It kind of leads me to the next question, which is when I think about all these obstacles that you had to overcome and these different constraints that you had – hurricanes, COVID, tidal changes every day. How do you begin to do risk management?  Thinking about standard risk management, it’s almost like you have to take a tiered approach even in risk management.  Can you talk us through some of the strategy that you used?

MATT COOKE:  Yes.  So it was something that really started in the bidding process, where we had to work to analyze all of our risks and present them as part of our proposal.  And so that was kind of the first stage at it, to kind of identify those and work through some mitigations as best we could. Then really looking at it as we started to get into the operations.  Having a strong safety team was key.  Working with the various stakeholders so it wasn’t just that our eyes were onsite.  We were working together with the Coast Guard, with the Gallagher Marine Systems, with State of Georgia to make sure that they were also giving us input as to things that could be adjusted or improved from that safety aspect.  And so that definitely helped to add into it.

And then each of our project teams, I would say, you can envision the different categories of people, whether it be the engineering team, our key leaders out in the field, our salvage masters and the dive teams.  So each of them kind of also had a hat on in terms of that mitigation where that they were mitigating the risks for their teams and people. Working with the overall safety team. Working to address any things that come up, adapt to any changes, that clients had representatives onsite, as well, who would give us some input.  So it was definitely a team effort that helped to mitigate that, and a continually adaptive approach as we saw new issues or new things arise.

At the beginning it was a lot of welding and diving, and then you’re kind of switching gears into more cutting operations.  And each time was new operations and new risks that had to be mitigated.  So it was just kind of continually to stay abreast and listen to people.  That’s really I think a key aspect.  You never know where a good idea, or input, or critical piece of information that you’re going to need, may come from.  So you’ve got to be listening to the various people on your teams.  A lot of times someone will spot something that maybe not everyone else is thinking about.

Keeping the Team Motivated

WENDY GROUNDS:  Looking at the human aspect of this, and your role as a project manager, I’m sure that there was a lot of time that the team was just feeling fatigued and facing all the obstacles, particularly when COVID hit. And there was just the unknown factor of what was going on there.  How did you keep your team motivated?

MATT COOKE:  Yes.  So I would say that was definitely one of the biggest challenges.  It’s really a difficult industry to be in, but a lot of the people that we had engaged in the project have been doing this for many years, and they’re used to these kind of intense, high-stress environments.  So we did a 12-hour-on, 12-hour-off rotation as best we could.  Some days went a little bit longer than that.  Had two salvage masters out there so that they could support each other and make some of those hard decisions together.

And then the COVID aspect definitely made it difficult because we extended a lot of our crew rotations that probably would have been shorter because of all the mitigating protocols that we had in place.  I would say for some that 14-day quarantine period was sort of almost like a forced rest period because they would get some time at home.  But even when you go home, right, from a long rotation or something, you’ve got your own chores and issues and things to deal with at home that it’s not always the most restful period.  So I think somewhat of that 14 days kind of forced people to unplug a bit and recuperate prior to going into their rotation.  So I think that that kind of helped, as well.

Forward Planning

WENDY GROUNDS:  As the project manager, what kept you up at night?

MATT COOKE:  It really was curveball after curveball with a lot of different things.  So I don’t see that there was one particular thing that kept me up.

WENDY GROUNDS:  You were just being kept up constantly.

MATT COOKE:  Of course there’s, yeah, always something coming up.  Especially it always would seem like it’s heading into the evening hours when something’s happening.  I know a few times when I was going on my rotation where the day I was leaving the chain would break or something catastrophic would happen.  But I think overall it was just kind of looking out towards the next stage of the project; right?  Many of our teams of course are focused on the day-to-day aspect, and keeping people safe, keeping the project going.

I think my biggest job as the project manager was to keep looking ahead and trying to think about what’s next. What’s the next challenge we’re going to face. What’s the next task on our to-do list. And trying to stay ahead of that because that’s where I needed to kind of keep ahead of our teams and try to make sure that then we were thinking a few steps down the road so that we weren’t coming up to those roadblocks unprepared.  Of course the cost side of things always was weighing on me probably more than others, as well, trying to make sure we kept in budget and things like that as best we could.

Final Piece Removed

BILL YATES:  Matt, do you recall the day that the last piece of debris was removed?

MATT COOKE:  Yes.  So it just kind of came upon us.  You’d had two years of operations basically, right, leading up to that moment where the last piece is lifted.  And it was basically surreal because after facing all those challenges and all the different aspects that we had to overcome to be at that point where, okay, now the last piece is out of the water.  We have some smaller debris to pick up.  It really just was a great feeling, honestly, and a big burden lifted off all of our backs.  Very surreal, I would say.  Great accomplishment.

But we still knew, of course, we had continued work to do in terms of mitigation to get the environment back to the standing where it was before.  A lot of smaller debris, rock and things that had to be picked up which continued on for several months after the last piece was lifted.  But I think some of the most relief, I would say, came after the first piece was lifted because we saw proof of our methodology, even though things had taken so long to get to that point. 

We knew that once we got that first piece out, that it was going to be able to take place.  It was just a matter of time and working through that.  So I think that that was really the first moment where we could say, okay, we’re on the right track.  We’re doing what we need to do.  We can make some adjustments to increase efficiency.  But that was kind of, I think, the first moment of relief we faced.

BILL YATES:  I get that, yeah.  That makes a lot of sense.

Final Destination

WENDY GROUNDS:  One question I have is where was this all taken to?  Where did you take the parts of the ship as you removed them?

MATT COOKE:  Yes.  So we had eight sections.  Six of the eight sections went to Gibson, Louisiana, MARS Recycling.  So those were taken down on barge sections to be processed down there.  And then two of the mid-body pieces, the center pieces of the wreck, we had too much structural concern to be able to consider a full ocean transit down from Brunswick all the way around the coast of Florida to Gibson.  So those two pieces were processed onsite in a facility that we had established there in coordination with the local authorities to be able to get those two pieces processed. 

And then once into smaller pieces, that steel also made its way down to Gibson for further processing.  But a lot of steel and a lot of man hours and time in terms of reducing it from those big pieces we placed on the barge to smaller pieces that, who knows, may come in the next razor that you buy.

Reflecting on the Project

BILL YATES:  Right.  Exactly, yes.  Matt, when you look back at the project, what’s been your biggest surprise?

MATT COOKE:  So we had a lot of surprises here and there.  I think the real surprise was just how long everything would take. And that we had to always be looking to stay ahead and how difficult it could be sometimes to kind of stay in that positive lane; right?  You’re facing all these different challenges and curveballs, and definitely overwhelming at times.  And to just be able to sometimes take a step back and see that okay, things are progressing. We’re working towards that goal.

BILL YATES:  I get it.  I’ve been on projects before, nothing this tangible, but projects that just seemed like anything that could delay our schedule would happen, and you have to fight project depression.  And that, that’s just the reality of it.  It makes me think back to that incredible relief you guys must have felt when the first of eight pieces actually, you cut through it, and you were able to remove it.  That must have given the team a sense of, okay, this is going to work.  It may take longer than we think, but it’ll work.

MATT COOKE:  Yes, exactly.  And I think the whole COVID thing kind of just threw us for a loop because we talked about the early days of that hitting the U.S., and it was really a big unknown. How long this is going to last, what does this mean.  At the time it began to impact all the various aspects, right; the supply chain, our external shipyards that were doing some fabrication for us, and just not knowing when or if things would get back to normal.  And you had people who were also afraid for their families and wanting to be with them during that difficult time.  That really was a big curveball that came to us as we were a few months into it, but into it enough where we had to keep the path and keep going and try to adapt and overcome as best we could.

Find Out More

WENDY GROUNDS:  I am so grateful to you guys for what you’ve done.  It’s definitely looking a lot better down there.  If our listeners want to find out more about this project, how can they hear a bit more about what you’ve been doing?

MATT COOKE:  Yes.  Everyone could email me.  Mcooke is my email  @ttsalvage.com.  Of course a lot of articles and videos out there on the web about this project.  We had a few episodes on the Weather Channel. So you may catch a glimpse of us on there, Deepwater Salvage.  So that was definitely interesting to allow them to get a firsthand look with some cool footage and stuff of the response efforts.

BILL YATES:  Matt, thanks so much for your time.  And I feel like I’ve kind of walked through the project with you to a degree.  Now I have a much better sense for the big picture of it, and also a bit of the daily grind.  And I say that with no pun intended, but it really is to think about all the planning that went into it, and then the approach you’re taking and then the hurricane season and COVID and the uncertainty.  It’s unreal to think about all the challenges that you guys faced.  So it’s a remarkable, largest salvage project in the U.S.  So congratulations on that and being a part of it.  Thank you for sharing this with us.

MATT COOKE:  Thank you.  Appreciate it, and appreciate your having me.  Great to share some insight into it.  I think everyone sees different pictures of it. And it’s hard to then envision, I think, what’s happening really behind the scenes and all the different people and even things that I didn’t even get to touch on; right?  You’ve got all that behind-the-scenes teams, the logistics teams, the accounting teams, everybody that has to be working together in order to make it successful.  It’s by no means a one-man operation.  It’s all the hard work of everyone coming together and working as a team to be able to get everything accomplished.

Closing

WENDY GROUNDS:  That’s it for us here on Manage This.  Thank you for joining us.  You can visit us at Velociteach.com, where you can subscribe to this podcast and see a complete transcript of the show.  You just earned your free PDUs by listening to this podcast.  To claim them, go to Velociteach.com, choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page. Click the button that says Claim PDUs, and click through the steps.  Until next time,  keep calm and Manage This.

One response to “Episode 154 – A Project Story:  The Largest Wreck Removal in US History”

  1. Megan says:

    Great topic and project discussion. Great lesson to always keep looking at “what’s next” and be prepared.

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