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Georgia shipwreck demolition pauses for maintenance of crane

July 17, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this Monday, April 26, 2021, file photo, a towering crane pulls the engine room section away from the remains of the capsized cargo ship Golden Ray, offshore of St. Simons Island, Ga. A large amount of oil has escaped a barrier after it was released while crews were dismantling the overturned cargo ship along the Georgia coast, the Coast Guard said Thursday, July 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Russ Bynum, File)
FILE - In this Monday, April 26, 2021, file photo, a towering crane pulls the engine room section away from the remains of the capsized cargo ship Golden Ray, offshore of St. Simons Island, Ga. A large amount of oil has escaped a barrier after it was released while crews were dismantling the overturned cargo ship along the Georgia coast, the Coast Guard said Thursday, July 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Russ Bynum, File)

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — The towering crane being used to saw apart an overturned cargo ship along the Georgia coast has paused work for maintenance and repairs.

Salvage crews have removed nearly two-thirds of the Golden Ray in five giant chunks since demolition began in November. The remaining 227 feet (70 meters) of the shipwreck will be cut into three huge pieces.

But first, the towering crane used to straddle the shipwreck and tear through its hull with 400 feet (122 meters) of anchor chain has to undergo maintenance. The giant pulleys that help to force the chain through the hull like a dull saw are being lowered for inspection and replacement as needed, The Brunswick News reported.

Thousands of feet of wiring inside the crane are also being checked, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes, a spokesman for the multi-agency command overseeing the demolition.

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“They’re going through the whole system to inspect for wear and tear and to recommend any needed repairs,” said Himes, who estimated the maintenance work could wrap by the end of the coming week.

The South Korean-owned Golden Ray capsized with more than 4,200 automobiles in its cargo decks shortly after departing the Port of Brunswick on Sept. 8, 2019. Investigators later concluded the ship tipped over because unstable loading had left its center of gravity too high.

The entire crew was rescued safely, but the ship was deemed a total loss. Demolition began in November and progress has been slower than officials predicted. Dismantling of the ship reached the halfway mark with removal of the fourth section in April. The fifth and latest chunk was cut away in early July.

Himes said cutting will resume once inspections and maintenance on the crane are complete.

The demolition and cleanup are being closely watched by environmental groups. A large fire sparked by a worker’s cutting torch broke out inside the shipwreck in May, sending thick black smoke into the air. The flames were doused with boat-mounted water canons and no one was injured.

A large amount of oil and fuel leaked into St. Simons Sound when the latest section of the ship was removed. Some of the leaked fuel escaped a containment barrier around the wreck. Crews cleaned up the spill with oil skimmers and absorbent boom.