Tugs turn the floating dry dock in preparation for putting it beneath the VB 10,000 on Friday.

Towed by tugboats, the barge Julie B slid out of the St. Simons Sound early Sunday morning with a thousand-plus ton steel chunk of the Golden Ray stretching to more than 130 feet above its deck, completing the first step in the complex operation to haul away two sections of the shipwreck at once, according to Unified Command.

The Julie B and its cargo were towed Sunday to Mayor’s Point Terminal on the East River in Brunswick, where Section 3 of the shipwreck will undergo a period of sea-fastening. Then, the Julie B will return to complete the transfer of Section 6 of the Golden Ray from a dry dock barge to its deck.

The Julie B will eventually tow both Section 3 and Section 6 on an ocean-borne transit to the Modern American Recycling Services (MARS) facility in Gibson, La. Texas-based T&T Salvage Inc. employed the workhorse VB 10,000 crane vessel to transfer Section 3 from a dry dock barge to the Julie B, a process that began Friday in the waters between Jekyll and St. Simons islands.

Stretching to 400 feet, the Julie B is the largest barge operating in U.S. waters.

Guided by tugboats, the Julie B entered Saturday morning through a gate in the environmental protection barrier (EPB) that surrounds the salvage site on the sound. In doing so, it followed the path a dry dock barge took Friday morning to deliver Section 3 to the VB 10,000.

Like that dry dock barge, the Julie B slid between the twin hulls of the VB 10,000. Above it hung the massive Section 3, suspended from the arching rafters of the 255-foot-tall crane vessel. The VB 10,000 then lowered the section into a steel-girded cradle on the deck of the Julie B. Workers boarded the barge deck and began welding the section to the cradle to secure it for transport back to the East River.

On Friday, after the dry dock barge carrying Section 3 slid between the VB 10,000’s hulls, sturdy polymer straps connected Section 3 to the crane vessel’s lifting system. The first phase of this double transfer was completed Saturday when the section was lowered onto the Julie B.

Using its system of winches, pulleys and wire rigging, the VB 10,000 powered a cutting chain to separate Section 3 from the half-submerged shipwreck in early July, and again to separate Section 6 in late July. Both sections were transferred by dry dock barge to a mooring on the East River in Brunswick, where crews and cranes removed numerous vehicles from each section’s cargo hull.

When the transfer of Section 3 is complete, salvors plan to repeat the process to place Section 6 into another specially made cradle on the Julie B’s deck. After securing both sections, the Julie B and its complement of tugboats will deliver the two sections to MARS.

Section 3 weighed 3,640 metric tons when the VB 10,000 powered a massive cutting chain that separated it from the rest of the half-submerged shipwreck in early July. The section was hauled away aboard a dry dock barge to a site off of Bay Street on the East River in Brunswick, where crews and cranes have removed numerous vehicles from its cargo hold.

Section 6 weighed 3,695 metric tons when separated.

Once the transfer of both sections is complete and the Julie B is under way with its double-load of cargo, the crew of the VB 10,000 will return its attention to removing Section 4 — the last remaining section of ship wreckage in the St. Simons Sound.

Section 5, the next-to-last section, was separated and hauled to a mooring on the East River earlier this month.

The Golden Ray overturned Sept. 8, 2019, while heading out to sea with a cargo of 4,161 vehicles. T&T Salvage commenced in November with a plan to use the VB 10,000 to cut the shipwreck into eight sections for removal from the sound.

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