Part of Golden Ray heads to Louisiana as crews start cutting stern of ship

Once the bow is delivered to the recycling facility in Louisiana, the barge will return to the St. Simons Sound and will be on standby to transport the stern.

Part of a cargo ship that became stranded off the Georgia coast is headed to a recycling facility in Louisiana as crews start making the second cut into the Golden Ray.

A barge hauling the gigantic bow section of the Golden Ray is expected to reach its destination in the Gulf of Mexico in another week or so, The Brunswick News reported. Crews successfully cut the bow at the end of November and then placed it onto barge Julie B.

The bow left St. Simons Sound on Tuesday, squeezing under the Sidney Lanier Bridge. The 3,100-metric-ton chunk of steel is going to Gibson, Louisiana.

“They had that section in the Port of Brunswick for a few days,” said Peter Abitz, who lives in Glynn County. “We went down and looked at it, and it was awesome, tremendous.”

Peter and Julie Abitz have been following Golden Ray removal operations since the 656-foot South Korean ship overturned in the sound near the Port of Brunswick in September 2019 while carrying 4,200 vehicles.

“It’s an amazing process,” said Julie Abitz.

Salvagers are cutting the Golden Ray into eight pieces. Now that one section is gone, there are still seven more to be lifted and recycled.

“We’re going to watch the whole thing,“ Peter Abitz said. “It’s a tourist attraction people here all the time just to have a look at this.”

Responders had originally hoped to have the ship out by the peak of this past hurricane season, but operations have been filed with several delays from hurricane season and COVID-19.

Lifting equipment has been attached to the ship. On Friday, cutting operations to separate to the stern section of the ship began. A massive chain started ripping through the hull from bottom to top.

“We are confident that the time invested to implement modifications to the cutting apparatus, as well as perform critical maintenance to the wreck removal equipment, will contribute to a safe and efficient cutting operation.” said Incident Commander Chris Graff of Gallagher Marine Systems. “We are ready to mitigate expected debris and other potential threats. The operation may be loud at times and please respect the safety zones around the wreck site.”

A responder sets a pin to attach a pulley to a block as a part of the cutting apparatus used to separate the Golden Ray wreck into sections. (St. Simons Sound Incident Response)

A major concern is the environmental impact. Crews have been monitoring from land, air and water, with pollution crews monitoring on the beach on Friday. Debris has been recovered on the shoreline. Oil sheens have been spotted in the area of the shipwreck. An environmental protection barrier was placed around the ship in June, and the 150-yard safety zone around the environmental protection barrier has been increased to 200 yards for recreational vessels.

Once the bow is delivered to the recycling facility in Louisiana, the barge will return to the St. Simons Sound and will be on standby to transport the stern.

An expert said during a hearing in September that a U.S. Coast Guard analysis found the ship overturned because of unstable loading.

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