Final Piece of Overturned Cargo Ship Removed Off Georgia Coast But Work Still Remains

The final piece of an overturned cargo ship was removed off the Georgia coast Monday after capsizing in 2019, but the Coast Guard said months of removal work still remains.

The South Korean freighter Golden Ray ship capsized on September 9, 2019, tipping over with 4,200 automobiles on its cargo decks. All crew members aboard were safely rescued, but the ship was a complete loss. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board concluded the cause of the capsize was an officer's error in calculating the ship's stability, leaving the center of gravity too high.

The eighth section of the ship that was removed Monday weighed over 4,410 U.S. tons and was the last large piece left since demolition on the ship started almost a year ago.

"This is the end of the wreck removal phase," said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes, a spokesman for the multiagency command in charge of the demolition.

The next phase of the salvage job still remains, as large pieces of the ship's sides and other debris are still left behind at the scene. Himes said the salvage of the leftovers will take two weeks or longer.

The next phase will then be removing metal shipping containers and rocks placed around the wreck that stabilized it during demolition and removing a giant mesh barrier installed at the site to collect debris.

These final steps should all be finished before the end of the year, Himes said.

According to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, the combined losses from the ship was more than $204 million.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Capsized cargo ship removed from Georgia
The final piece of an overturned cargo ship was removed off the Georgia coast Monday after capsizing in 2019. On October 25, a barge carries the eighth and final giant section of the overturned cargo ship Golden Ray. Terry Dickson/The Brunswick News/Associated Press

Meanwhile, the last two large sections taken from the wreck site must be broken down further before they can depart Georgia for a salvage yard in Louisiana. Himes said that likely won't be done until early 2022.

They settled on a plan to straddle the shipwreck with a towering crane and use a long anchor chain powered by winches and pulleys to slowly saw it into eight giant pieces for removal.

Demolition work began last November 6 and was periodically interrupted by breaks in the chain, one big fire that engulfed the wreck after being sparked by cutting torches and leaking oil that fouled 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) of beach and marsh grasses.

Some conservationists have asked the multiagency command overseeing the demolition for a formal assessment to determine the extent of the ecological damage from oil spills and other pollutants that came from the wreck. No decision has been announced.