BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The Versabar 10,000 has finally arrived at the salvage operations of the Golden Ray, the overturned cargo ship in the St. Simons Sound. The heavy-lifting crane left the Port of Fernandina Monday where it had been since early July.
News of the crane’s arrival attracted hundreds of people to the St. Simons Island Pier to watch, but resident Bobbie Sampson said the amazement of it all is starting to wear off.
“It’s been fun, I will say that, but it has been a year. The first couple of months... watching them weld the lifting lugs on... We are always like ‘What is that? What are they doing?’ but it has been a year, I want to see driftwood on the beach again. I’m ready for the view back,” Sampson said.
Crews will use the giant VB 10,000 to dismantle the Golden Ray into eight sections. The sections will be hoisted onto barges which will be moved to and eventually recycled in Louisiana. Aerial cameras and spotters will assist in the process while workers watch from afar-- something Matt Fish, the Versabar Operations Manager, said is very important.
“We will be lifting quite heavy and possibly unstable structures into the air to set on these transportation barges as much as possible we removed people from the area in the vicinity during all this work,” Fish said.
More than 71 tons of equipment and inventory remains in the Golden Ray wreckage, which includes thousands of new vehicles. It’s why a machine like the VB 10,000 was required.
“It’s a dual-barged system with two overhead cranes that each contain two lifting blocks. That gives us four crane blocks which are quite different than a lot of typical construction vessels in that we can control center of gravities and manipulate, the packages we are lifting,” Fish said.
It will take a few days before the VB 10,000 will be positioned over the Golden Ray. Crews and residents are eager for work to start, but once it begins, a new series of concerns set in too.
“We are all concerned with debris flying off during the cut and the removal of the sections. Each cut is going to result in about 80 to 100 cars falling into the sound, which is what the netting is for the environmental protection barrier, but those cars are full of batteries, antifreeze, oil, gasoline. We are very concerned with every stage of this,” said Altamaha Riverkeeper Executive Director Fletcher Sams.
Environmentalists will monitor work as it happens, keeping an eye out for fires and spills.
The VB 10,000 weighs 7,500 tons and is the largest lift vessel ever built in the United States.