Final section of Golden Ray could take time to remove

The two-year saga of wrecked car carrier Golden Ray still has some time to run, even though the cutting up of the vessel into eight sections is now complete.

Two sections of the hull of the wreck Ray have been loaded out onto a deck barge for transit to a scrapyard. The salvors are now preparing to lift and remove the very last segment from St. Simons Sound, Brunswick, Georgia, where the vessel capsized in September 2019. Total insured losses from the accident are thought to be approaching $1bn, making it the costliest vessel incident since the capsizing of the Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy nearly a decade ago.

Barge Julie B departed the St. Simons Sound around mid-morning on October 7th, heading to the East River in Brunswick with a twin-payload of sections, totalling more than 6,000mt. The Julie B docked at Mayor’s Point Terminal south of Mary Ross Waterfront Park in Brunswick. Crews will sea-fasten Section 3 and Section 6 of the Golden Ray to the steel-girded cradles that hold each section on the barge’s deck.

The barge and its cargo of the two sections will soon depart on an ocean-borne transit to the Modern American Recycling Services facility in Gibson, Louisiana.

Each section weighed more than 3,500mt when the VB 10,000 separated them from the shipwreck — Section 3 in early July and Section 6 in late July. The sections had been held on dry dock barges on the East River at a site off Bay Street in Brunswick, where crews and cranes removed cars and possible hazardous materials from inside each.

Over the past week or so each section was transferred from its dry dock barge to the deck of the Julie B in the waters between Jekyll and St. Simons islands.

The VB 10000 hoisted each section from the deck of the dry dock barge and held it suspended from polymer straps within its steel arches. The Julie B then slid between the VB 10,000’s hulls and beneath the shipwreck section, after which the crane vessel lowered the section into a cradle on the barge deck.

Section 3 rests behind Section 6 on the barge deck. Each section is more than 70 feet long.

The Julie B then headed up the Brunswick River and beneath the Sidney Lanier Bridge before veering into the East River and arrived at its mooring at the port terminal.

The VB 10,000 will now be able to focus on the last section of the shipwreck – Section 4 – which is 80ft long and weighs an estimated 4,909mt.

However, the unusually heavy final section may take some time to move. Before hoisting the salvors expect that extra weight-shedding operations may be required. The adjacent section was heavily damaged on the bottom-facing (port) side, and the team had to weld up a custom cradle to support the remaining structure in order to load it on a dry dock barge. It was expected that the final section would need a similar arrangement. Once it has been lifted a cradle system will be designed that will hold up the wreckage for a short-distance transit. After hoisting, it will be partially dismantled at the nearby facility (where sections 3 and 6 were held) in preparation for its final voyage.

The response command’s survey teams are continuing to recover debris from the wreck along shorelines and marsh areas near the wreck site. However, the large-scale oil spills that escaped from the wreck site in August have not recurred, and reports of wildlife oiling have been minimal.