020520_golden ray

The Golden Ray sits on its side in St. Simons Sound.

Folks who want to hear first-hand what’s going to happen to the shipwrecked Golden Ray and who is going to do it can get answers Thursday at the Brunswick-Glynn County Library, 208 Gloucester St.

A public meet-and-greet event with members of Unified Command will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. at the library in downtown Brunswick. Unified Command representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Gallagher Marine Systems will meet with the public and answer questions. Representatives from the contractor hired to remove the shipwreck from the St. Simons Sound also are expected to attend.

The 25,000-ton ship overturned on its port side in the St. Simons Sound on Sept. 8 while heading out to sea with a cargo of 4,200 vehicles. Efforts to remove the ship from the sound are set to begin in earnest later this month. Officials hope to have the bulk of the shipwreck removed by the June 1 start of hurricane season.

“We hope folks will come out and meet some of the people who have been working behind the scenes diligently on this removal project,” said Coast Guardsman Nate Littlejohn, spokesman for Unified Command. “Transparency continues to be a top priority for Unified Command and we encourage folks who have questions to attend this open house and get some answers.”

Work could begin as early as next week on construction of a 33-acre mesh-netting environmental protection barrier around the Golden Ray. Construction of the double-layered net, secured by dozens of 140-foot-long piles driven deep into the sound’s sandy bottom, is forecast to be completed by the end of March. The structure includes a floating boom on the surface to catch oils and other pollutants.

Once the barrier is in place, work will begin to cut the 656-foot vessel into eight pieces, which will be loaded onto barges and hauled to a recycling facility. That formidable task will require the VB 10,000, a towering floating crane that will straddle the shipwreck and do the heavy lifting and cutting. The crane will employ a giant diamond-toothed chain saw.

The shipwreck sits between Jekyll and St. Simons islands and Unified Command has warned folks to expect loud construction noise at times.

Unified Command officially announced plans for removal of the ship last week. Those plans, and other information about the Golden Ray saga, are available at ssiresponse.com.

“We hope that folks have had a chance to look at our website and get a broad overview of what lies ahead,” Littlejohn said. “A lot of people are going to see what they’ve already seen online. There is not going to be any new information released. It’s just a good opportunity to receive amplified information if folks have further questions.”

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