FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – The massive heavy-lifting crane that will remove the capsized vessel Golden Ray in Glynn County has arrived in the Port of Fernandina.
It stopped there first for final modifications and function checks before heading to the St. Simons Sound where the Golden Ray has sat overturned for almost 10 months.
The crane, which will catch your eye from miles away, is called the Versabar 10,000 and it came in from Texas.
Car after car was seen stopping by the port to check out the equipment that makes the cruise ship sitting next to it look small.
The yellow 255-foot tall gantries are almost as tall as the length of a football field.
It will remain in the Port of Fernandina until at least the end of next week before heading to the Golden Ray.
“I’m thinking it’s impossibly huge to be real from a distance. It looks like it was a big huge carnival show,” said Linda Oller, who lives on Amelia Island.
Chief Petty Officer John Miller with the U.S. Coast Guard told News4Jax this is an operational milestone that marks the beginning of the final phases of the response to the Golden Ray incident.
“It’s going to be the engineering centerpiece of all of the technology and the ingenuity that’s going to safely remove the Golden Ray,” Miller said.
Miller said the equipment needs final modifications and to change over to a lifting configuration, which is why it first stopped in Fernandina. The 255-foot gantry cranes will lift all eight sections of the Golden Ray out of the St. Simons Sound onto barges. The Coast Guard said each section will weigh between 2,700 and 4,100 tons. The equipment has a lifting capacity of 7,400 tons.
The Versabar is the largest lifting vessel ever built in the United States and it was built to install and decommission oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, according to Miller.
“We have the environmental protection barrier surrounding the Golden Ray, which is designed to keep petroleum and debris that might emerge from the ship once we start cutting it up and lifting it, and it’s going to take some time for the Versabar to navigate inside the EPB,” Miller said.
Once the VB 10,000 arrives in St. Simons Sound, it will straddle the Golden Ray. Then 400 lengths of chains will be placed under the 656-foot ship. It will be used to tear through the hull of the vessel. Crews will be making seven cuts and lifting each piece by piece onto barges. It will eventually be secured and transported to Louisiana to be recycled.
“It takes some time to prepare. We want to make sure we get it right the first time,” Miller said.
The goal is for minimal impact to the public and environment.
The massive yellow gantries can be seen from miles away because of how tall it is. It’s already becoming an attraction where many have been stopping by and taking pictures.
Security at the Port of Fernandina told News4Jax some people have tried to go past the gates, which drivers cannot do unless they are authorized to do so.
The Coast Guard expects a larger crowd when it arrives in the sound by the end of next week.