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Cutting of Golden Ray cargo ship to start as early as Halloween weekend

The St. Simon's Response team said the vessel cutting the Golden Ray could arrive soon.

ST. SIMONS, Ga. — It's been more than a year since the Golden Ray cargo ship capsized in the St. Simons Sound.

Rescuing the crew took days, but the massive ship still remains. Its removal has been delayed by the pandemic, engineering issues and hurricane season, but dramatic changes are about to take place.

By now, South Georgia locals are used to seeing the Golden Ray laying on its port side.

David Minshew has lived in nearby Blythe Island for 20 years.

“It’s become a tourist attraction," he said. "There’s a lot of people coming to look at it because it's not every day you see a ship overturned. To me, it's an eyesore."

Soon, there may be something new to see.

The VB 10,000, a 255-foot tall vessel that will cut the Golden Ray into eight large pieces is set to arrive early Tuesday morning.

The St. Simons Sound Response team told First Coast News the ship could arrive as early as 4:30 a.m.

"This will be one piece you're not going to be able to miss, it'll be straddling the Golden Ray," Chris Graff of Gallagher Marine Systems, the responsible party for the incident told First Coast News.

Cutting of the Golden Ray could start as soon as this weekend, once the vessel is properly secured. Each individual cut could last 24 hours, according to Graff.

Nearby residents could expect noise when each piece is cut, but it's not clear how loud the chain cutting through the ship's steel hull could be.

“When the chain is moving its way up through the ship from the bottom side, there won’t be any sound when it's underwater," Graff said. "When it gets to the part where it’s out of the water, we don’t know how exactly it’s going to sound because it never been done before."

Graff said there will be acoustic monitoring and roaming monitors on the St. Simons Island side and the Jekyll Island side of the channel.

Graff reminds residents that once the cutting starts, it cannot stop until it's completed.

The salvage delays have also frustrated South Georgia representatives. In a letter, US Congressman Earl "Buddy" Carter wrote: " ... if these delays continue, we must consider additional Congressional action to ensure accountability."

In response to the letter: the US Coast Guard confirms Admiral Karl Schultz received it and is addressing the concerns.

"I can confirm Admiral Schultz has received the joint congressional letter and he is aware of the ongoing concerns and risks of the response to the capsizing of the motor vessel Golden Ray in the St. Simons Sound. The response remains complex, and while there have been unforeseen delays, he is confident we all share the same goal of removing the vessel safely, protecting local maritime commerce, and keeping all our responders safe during the process," Rear Adm. Jon Hickey, Director of Governmental and Public Affairs, United States Coast Guard told First Coast News.

Minshew is hoping for a smooth operation with less impact than what residents saw in the months following the capsize.

“We saw the spills 10 miles away in the marsh where we lived. So hopefully when they start disassembling this thing, they have a net to catch whatever comes out but time is going to tell,” Minshew said.