SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Salvage crews cutting a wrecked cargo ship into giant chunks along the Georgia coast Tuesday lifted away the third big section to be severed from the vessel since demolition began four months ago.
The South Korean freighter Golden Ray has remained partially submerged off St. Simons Island since the ship capsized Sept. 8, 2019, after leaving the Port of Brunswick with 4,200 cars in its cargo decks. The crew was rescued safely.
The multiagency command in charge of removing the ship opted to cut it into eight huge pieces, each weighing up to 4,100 tons (3,720 metric tonnes), and load them into barges. Cuts are made using a towering crane with winches and pulleys attached to a length of anchor chain that rips through the hull like a dull sawblade.
Cutting has progressed slowly at the wreck site 80 miles (128 kilometers) south of Savannah since demolition began on Nov. 6. Before the latest section was loaded onto a barge Tuesday, only the two ends of the ship had been removed.
But cutting away the third section took only a week, and workers are trying to make the remaining cuts more efficient by removing strips of steel plating from the ship's hull along paths prepared for the chains to cut. About 100 battered cars have been plucked from inside the ship using a big mechanical claw, but most of the vehicles are being lifted out as part of the severed segments.
The barge holding the newly cut segment will anchor at a local dock where workers will secure the load for transport to a scrapyard in Louisiana, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes, a spokesman for the multiagency command.
Meanwhile, crews will prepare to return to a problematic section containing the ship's engine room, Himes said. They previously spent an entire month working to cut away that section, where heavier steel strained the cutting apparatus enough to force repairs and maintenance. Salvors paused that cut halfway through to shift to the other end of the ship.
Himes said cutting on the engine room segment will likely resume next week.
The Coast Guard held hearings in September on the cause of the shipwreck. 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 the cargo decks above.