Finally! 423 days later, Golden Ray cutting begins in St. Simons Sound

Massive ship carrying cars capsized Sept. 8, 2019; it will be cut into sections over next 7 days

Massive ship carrying cars capsized Sept. 8, 2019; it will be cut into sections over next 7 days

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Long-awaited work on the capsized cargo ship carrying more than 4,200 new cars has finally begun. Friday, crews started cutting the South-Korean owned Golden Ray into pieces.

It has been more than a year since the 656-foot vessel loaded with vehicles listed heavily and rolled onto its starboard side in the St. Simons Sound.

The first visible signs to dismantle the massive ship were being seen Friday.

Cutting the vessel into eight pieces will take seven days — 24 hours for each cut — but only if the dismantling goes according to schedule.

Responders will be monitoring noise-levels as crews use 400 lengths of chains to tear through the ship from bottom to top. A ginormous marine crane straddles the shipwreck from above and guides the slicing chains.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources on-scene coordinator said it’s unrealistic to expect the operation will be clean and perfect.

Oil and debris recovery teams and firefighting assets are standing by for when — not if — the hundreds of cars filled with batteries, antifreeze and gas ignite or leak into the St. Simons Sound.

Crews are prepared to put out fires, clean up pollutant discharge, and go on recovery missions for fallen debris during the cutting and lifting process.

There’s a one-mile environmental protection barrier surrounding the wreckage as well to mitigate the pollution. Crowds are gathered to watch local history happen in front of them.

“If you haven’t been here yourself, you can’t begin to visualize how close it is. If you’re just looking at a picture, it doesn’t seem possible,” visiting tourist Pat Limage said.

The dismantling will take at least two months and the public is reminded that drones are not allowed near the wreckage.

How did the Golden Ray capsize?

During a formal hearing in September, an expert said a Coast Guard analysis found that a cargo ship overturned after departing the Port of Brunswick on Sept. 8, 2019, because of unstable loading that left its center of gravity too high.

Coast Guard Lt. Ian Oviatt testified that his analysis found the ship lacked enough water in its ballast tank, making the vessel lean during a starboard turn offsetting the 4,200 cars on board. The ship was just two years old when it capsized. Twenty crew members were rescued following the incident.

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