Versabar VB-10,000 Heavy Lift Vessel to Support Golden Ray Salvage as St. Simons Sound Incident Response Unified Command Announces EPB Construction and Wreck Removal Plan

Wire Rope Exchange published a profile of the Versabar VB-10,000 in our November/December 2016 issue, noting its innovative design and reviewing challenging projects it had tackled in its first seven years of service. One key to the efficiency and versatility of its unique lilfting system is the nearly 70,000 feet of wire rope spooled on 28 winches.

We also noted the that vessel’s 12.5 foot draft enables it to work in rivers, bays and other inland waterways inaccessible to deep draft vessels.  That feature would seem to be critical to this application, as the Golden Ray is grounded on its side in relatively shallow water.  You can read that 2016 article in full at

The Unified Command (UC) for the St. Simons Sound Incident Response, in coordination with the owners of the motor vessel Golden Ray, have developed a plan and received permits for the construction of an environmental protection barrier (EPB) to be built around the grounded vessel before it is cut into sections and removed.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, on Tuesday, Feb. 4, issued permits for EPB construction. The EPB is designed to protect the environment from pollution and debris.

EPB construction is scheduled to begin later in February. Construction will require pile driving operations during daylight hours. The public should expect construction noise.

“There’s no way to remove the Golden Ray without making noise—there’s no way around it,” said Kevin Perry of Gallagher Marine Systems, incident commander for the responsible party. “The EPB construction noise will be limited to daylight hours. We appreciate everyone’s patience with the noise levels as we work to remove this wreck as quickly and safely as possible.”

The EPB will include large floating boom to help contain surface pollutants, as well as double layer netting to contain subsurface debris.

“We recognize that the floating boom of the EPB alone will probably not be enough to contain surface pollution when we cut into the hull,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Norm Witt, federal on scene coordinator for the response. “That’s why we’ll have crews and equipment, both inside the barrier and out, ready to respond.”

Contractors will remove the wreck using the VB-10,000 floating crane to cut through the hull with a large diamond-cutting chain. The plan is to make seven cuts and remove eight large sections. Each section of the Golden Ray, weighing approximately 2,700 to 4,100 tons, will be lifted by the VB-10,000 onto a barge, then transported to a certified off-site recycling facility for further dismantling and recycling.

“Each individual large-section cut will take approximately 24 hours, and once a cut begins, must continue until that cut is complete,” said John Maddox, Georgia Department of Natural Resource state on scene coordinator. “That means noise through the night during some 24-hour periods. We do not yet know when the cutting will begin, but we will make announcements for cutting operations once they are scheduled.”

A video outlining the procedure for cutting and removing large sections utilizing the VB-10,000 can be seen at this link.

Earlier this year, the Unified Command announced that T&T Salvage LLC (T&T) was selected to conduct wreck removal operations.  T&T is headquartered in Texas with offices around the globe and has extensive experience in wreck removal.  Their website, detailing a wide variety of marine salvage and support capabilities and an equipment inventory with several dozen vessels and other specialized equipment, indicates that they “…are ready to meet any challenge, anytime, anywhere”.

“We’d like to thank the initial response contractor, DonJon-SMIT, for their hard work and commitment throughout this project,” said Chris Graff of Gallagher Marine Systems, incident commander for the responsible party. “This is one of the most complicated marine casualty responses in U.S. history. DonJon-SMIT’s commitment to safety, along with hundreds of other responders, resulted in no injuries despite all the emergent hazards they faced.”

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