Giant crane arrives at Georgia shipwreck awaiting removal

A towering, floating crane has arrived on the Georgia coast to remove in giant chunks a cargo ship that overturned more than a year ago

BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- A towering, floating crane tasked with removing an overturned cargo ship on the Georgia coast arrived Tuesday and could begin cutting the wrecked vessel into giant chunks within a few days.

The crane, called the VB 10,000, was in place straddling the partially submerged shipwreck Tuesday afternoon, after several months in Florida undergoing preparations. Standing 255 feet (78 meters) tall, the crane is taller than the Sidney Lanier Bridge that typically dominates the area's skyline.

The crane will be used to chop up and remove the South Korean ship Golden Ray. The vessel capsized Sept. 8, 2019, shortly after leaving the Port of Brunswick about 70 miles (200 kilometers) south of Savannah. More than 4,200 vehicles remain in the ship’s cargo decks.

“We’re looking at a series of tasks that need to be complete” before demolition of the ship begins, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes, a spokesman for the multi-agency command overseeing the ship's removal. “Those tasks should take about three to five days, weather permitting.”

Resembling a giant archway of steel girders anchored to a pair of barges, the VB 10,000 is the largest floating crane sailing under a U.S. flag. It can lift loads of up to 7,500 tons (6,800 metric tonnes).

The plan is for the crane to straddle the ship and use a large chain to cut the vessel into eight big chunks.

After each cut, the crane will lift the severed section of ship and load it onto a barge for transport to a scrapyard on the Gulf Coast. Once cutting begins, the removal operation is expected to take about eight weeks.

The command has booked an entire resort nearby through Jan. 21 to isolate 100 salvage workers as a safeguard against the virus.

The Coast Guard held hearings on the cause of the shipwreck last month. An expert concluded the Golden Ray tipped over because unstable loading had left its center of gravity too high. Coast Guard Lt. Ian Oviatt said the ship lacked enough water in its ballast tanks, used to add weight at the bottom of a vessel, to offset that of the vehicles in its cargo decks above.

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