Barge Julie B hauls away Golden Ray shipwreck section

Larry Hobbs, The Brunswick News, Ga.
·3 min read

Apr. 3—The barge Julie B departed Saturday morning from its East River berth in Brunswick, taking with it a hulking 6,350-metric-ton steel chunk of the shipwrecked Golden Ray.

Towed by the tugboat Kurt Crosby, the Julie B and its gargantuan cargo set off at 7:45 a.m., said U.S. Coast Guardsman Michael Himes, spokesman for Unified Command.

About an hour later, the barge slid past what remains of the half-submerged Golden Ray in the St. Simons Sound and chugged into the Atlantic Ocean. It is bound for the Modern American Recycling Services (MARS) facility in Gibson, La. The Kurt Crosby had assistance maneuvering out of the East River and through the sound from the tugs Crosby Star and the Caitlin. The largest tugboat in salvor T&T Salvage's fleet of tugs, the Kurt Crosby alone will tow the Julie B through the open waters between here and Louisiana.

Fastened securely on its side, the ship's section known to salvors as Section 2 towered to 135 feet above the barge's deck. The shipwreck section is 85 feet long and 113 feet from keel to deck. Salvors removed Section 2 from the foremost section of the shipwreck during an eight-day cutting operation that was completed March 15.

Section 2 was hoisted from the water by the VB 10,000 crane vessel, which also powered the immense anchor chain that tore through the shipwreck and its 12 interior steel decks. The twin-hulled crane vessel now sits astride the shipwreck's engine section, known as Section 7. Workers have spent the past week positioning the cutting chain in place to begin cutting on Section 7, a task that was halfway completed when salvage supervisors decided to temporarily suspend operations after a chain break in late February.

Salvors instead refocused their efforts on Section 2, mainly to meet a deadline with the Julie B, which at the time was on its way to the Port of Brunswick on a return trip from MARS. The Julie B hauled the shipwreck's bow section, Section 1, to MARS after salvors separated it during a three-week cutting operation in November.

This is the last mission in the Golden Ray salvage operation for the Julie B. Stretching to 400 feet, it is the largest barge operating in U.S. waters. Two steel cradles were constructed on the deck of the Julie B, each built to exacting specifications to hold Section 1 and Section 2 for the long journey around Florida, into the Gulf of Mexico and on to Louisiana.

The Julie B remained with Section 1 as workers at MARS dismantled it for recycling. "Section 1 of the Golden Ray is gone," Himes said recently. "It no longer exists. We are making progress."

The stern, Section 8, was removed from the Golden Ray during an operation that began Dec. 25 and concluded Jan. 2. It was hauled to MARS by the barge 455-8.

Barge 455-7 is docked on the East River, awaiting its assignment to haul away Section 7 once it is cut.

The 656-foot-long Golden Ray capsized Sept. 8, 2019, while heading out to sea with a cargo of 4,200 vehicles. About 368 feet of the shipwreck remains, laying on its port side between St. Simons and Jekyll islands and beside the Port of Brunswick shipping channel.