Julie B leaves St Simon’s Sound with sections 3 and 6 of dismantled Golden Ray

Towed by the Zion, barge Julie B left St Simons Sound, Brunswick, Georgia, USA, during the morning of October 20th with sections 3 and 6 of wrecked car carrier Golden Ray’ on board, totalling more than 6,000 tonnes. The barge is bound for the Modern American Recycling Services in Gibson, Louisiana, and should arrive there before the end of the month.

The barge had spent the past two weeks at Mayor’s Point Terminal on the East River, where crews have spent the time sea fastening each section for secure transit on the ocean-borne voyage.

The Julie B departed after passing inspection with the Coast Guard and finding a favourable weather window from there to the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

Meanwhile, salvage masters with the T&T Salvage have been focusing on a slow but steady raising of Section 4, the last remaining section from the St. Simons Sound. The salvors had anticipated heavy damage to the submerged port side of Section 4, which has meant that crews have concentrated on lightening the load inside the 4,090-metric-ton chunk of steel, permitting the crane ship to raise it very slowly to a clearing of the water line.

Engineers and salvage masters hoped to be able to raise the section high enough to get a glimpse of the underside for the first time in more than two years, and assess the damage. If the damage is as bad as has been feared this could necessitate further reinforcement of the holding cradle on the dry deck barge. A Fuchs crane has been removing vehicles and decking from inside the section’s cargo hold.

When the final section of the Golden Ray was nearly out of the water, it was seen that the vessel section had extensive structural damage and missing hull plating on the upper port side. A special cradle will be needed as a temporary support for the remaining structure so that it can be set down on barge Julie B and removed from the site.

The exact dimensions of the cradle would not be known until after the wreckage had been removed from the water fully.

Long-time observers of this salvage saga will have noted that the current T&T plan for partial dismantlement is not that dissimilar from the process originally proposed by OPA 90 salvor Donjon-Smit, which proposed cutting up the Golden Ray up on-site, pulling the cargo out from the top and taking away the scrap in smaller pieces.

However, in February 2020, the owner set that plan aside in favour of a very different bid from T&T Salvage, which proposed to cut the vessel into eight chunks using an anchor chain and a massive crane barge, the VB 10000.