Anchor chain attached to the pulley system on the VB-10000 heavy-lift vessel moves slowly to cut through Section One of the Golden Ray wreck. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

09 NOV 2020

The heavy lift vessel VB10000 began cutting the Golden Ray on Friday more than a year after the car carrier wrecked in St. Simons Sound, Georgia.

The St. Simons Sound Unified Command said cutting kicked off Friday at about 11:30 a.m.

However, approximately 25 hours into the cut, the chain broke.

“There were no injuries or damage to the VB-10000. Meanwhile, responders retrieved the chain and repaired the broken link while also inspecting the chain for any additional fatigue. They resumed cutting operations thereafter,” the unified command said in an update.

The Golden Ray was carrying about 4,200 vehicles when it lost stability and grounded as it departed the Port of Brunswick more than a year ago in September 2019. All vehicles remain inside the ship’s cargo holds and will be cut along with the wreck’s hull.

The VB10000 arrived in St. Simons Sound late last month to prepare for the cutting of the Golden Ray inside an erected Environmental Protection Barrier. The vessel will use an anchor chain to cut the wreck into eight sections that will then be lifted onto barges for transportation to a shore side recycling facility. The first cut was anticipated to take about 24 hours.

“The cutting process was carefully engineered and modeled, but it remains a highly complex operation. This is the first of seven cuts. During each cut we will continue fine-tuning our cutting parameters, including speed and tension of the chain, to improve its efficiency” said Deputy Incident Commander Tom Wiker of Gallagher Marine Systems. “Though the cut is taking longer than expected, we’re gaining valuable knowledge that will guide the rest of this operation.”

Responders, meanwhile, are monitoring sound levels at the wreck site, St. Simons Island Pier and Jekyll Island Pier. Oil and debris recovery and firefighting assets are also on scene and ready to respond.

“We expect there will be noise, fires, product discharges, and debris once we begin the cutting and lifting process. It would be unrealistic to say that this operation will be clean and perfect,” said State On-scene Coordinator John Maddox of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, “We installed a multi-layer environmental protection system and have practiced prevention and response strategies for several months. We are prepared to protect the community and environment of St. Simons Sound.”

Below is a look at the chain being used for the cuts:

400 feet of chain is used to saw through the hull of the wreck of the Golden Ray. Each link of the chain is 1.5 feet in length and weighs over 80 pounds. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

The 150-yard safety zone around the Environmental Protection Barrier is increased to 200 yards for recreational vessels. The UC advises mariners to steer clear of the perimeter. Officials prohibit any unauthorized usage of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) around the wrecksite. Responders will report any sightings of drones and drone operators to local authorities.


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