You can see it for miles, peeking above the treetops. It’s the newest attraction in town, but no, it’s not a Ferris wheel – it’s the VB-10,000 – and it’s docked at the Port of Fernandina.
Designed by a company named Versabar to retrieve toppled oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, the 25-story-tall crane docked since July 3 will instead make its way to the Port of Brunswick later this month to lift sections of the 653-foot Golden Ray, the car-carrying ship that tumped over in St. Simons Sound almost a year ago.
Versabar is a subcontractor to Texas contractor T and T Salvage LLC, which won the bid to remove the shipwreck from the water. T and T plans to cut the ship into eight huge pieces then have the VB-10,000 lift those pieces onto barges and take them to Louisiana for recycling, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, which said the VB-10,000 docked here “for final modifications and function checks prior to heading to St. Simons Sound.”
The “St. Simons Sound Response” project is being managed by Unified Command, which consists of Gallagher Marine Systems, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Coast Guard. More information on the project is here: https://ssiresponse.com/.
According to Versabar’s website, the twin-hull heavy lift vessel is the largest ever built in the United States, a “barge-mounted dual truss system with the ability to perform single-piece topside retrievals” with a hook height of 178 feet tall, capable of lifting 7,500 tons.
And it has claws, too. The website says “Versabar engineers developed a set of two massive 1,100-ton purpose-built “claws” which enabled the vessel to retrieve sunken topsides or other debris without exposing divers to hazardous working conditions.”
“It’s essentially a catamaran crane mounted to two barges 300 feet apart,” Port of Fernandina director and Worldwide Terminals Fernandina CEO Christopher Ragucci said Monday. Ragucci said it travels with two tugboats and has four propulsion jets on four corners of the system. Ragucci said crewmembers are staying on the two boats.
According to the Brunswick Daily News, “the Golden Ray overturned while heading out to sea with a cargo of 4,200 vehicles. DonJon-SMIT played a crucial role in rescuing the four crewmen who were trapped deep in the stern of the ship after it capsized. The four South Korean maritime merchants were plucked from a hole cut in the hull of the ship more than 34 hours after the wreck. All 24 crewmen were safely rescued.”