Photos: Towering VB10000 Arrives at Golden Ray Wreck Site

Mike Schuler
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October 28, 2020

The heavy-lift vessel VB10,000 arrives at the Golden Ray wreck site on Oct. 27, 2020. St. Simons Sound Incident photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes

The heavy lift vessel VB10000 has arrived in St. Simons Sound, Georgia for the highly anticipating cutting and lifting operation in the salvage of the Golden Ray.

The vessel arrived Tuesday and is now in place above the capsized wreck. The vessel will us a 3-inch anchor chain to cut the wreck into eight sections weighing thousands of tons apiece. The chain will move at roughly 8 feet per minute to slowly cut through the wreck from the bottom up then switch to a tungsten carbide cutting chain for any “top-down” cuts when necessary.

The VB10000 will then lift and place the sections on barges and dry docks inside the Environmental Protection Barrier (EPB) for transport to a shore-side recycling facility.

St. Simons Sound Incident

The U.S.-flagged VB10000, with its towering 178-foot-tall twin-gantry cranes, has been being prepared for job at the Port of Fernandina, Florida. Meanwhile, the vessel’s crew has been sequestered inside a “bubble” in order to mitigate their COVID-19 exposure ahead of the operation.

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.

St. Simons Sound Incident

The salvage operation, one of the largest marine salvages in U.S. history, has so far faced several hurdles including the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the suspension of on-site work in July after several workers tested positive for the virus. More recently, an issue with the mooring system of VB10000 further delayed the operation by several weeks.

The Unified Command overseeing the response has said previously that the cutting and lifting operation is expected to take eight weeks.

St. Simons Sound Incident

Owned by engineering firm Versabar and built in 2010, the VB 10000 is a heavy lifting vessel originally designed for the installation and decommissioning of offshore oil and gas platforms with a single lift. The vessel is equipped with twin-gantry cranes with a hook height of 178 feet and maximum lifting capacity is 7,500 tons. For previous jobs, the vessel has been equipped with a set of massive 1,100-ton purpose-built “Claws”, allowing the vessel to retrieve large sunken objects and debris.

A video of how they plan to remove the Golden Ray is below:

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