A disaster of unimaginable scale required equipment of unimaginable scale, and more of it arrived Sunday at Sparrows Point after a journey of thousands of miles from Galveston, Texas.

A hydraulic salvage grab that resembles the talons of a giant bird of prey is in the process of being attached to the Chesapeake 1000 crane, another monster piece of equipment that has been an indispensable tool in the removal of thousands of tons of debris left in the Patapsco River after the Key Bridge collapsed.

The hydraulic grab is the only one of its kind in the world; it weighs 200 tons but can hold up to five times that amount in its grasp. The grab consists of four hydraulic arms that together resemble a giant claw.

The Daily News in Galveston reported the grab was loaded onto a barge in Galveston on Friday, April 5, by a crew from T&T Offshore, a marine salvage and services company. Donjon Marine, one of the three major contractors working in the salvage operation, leased the grab from T&T. The News said the grab was used in two previous salvage operations, including the wreck of the vehicle carrier Golden Ray in 2019. T&T purchased the grab from its Dutch manufacturer, The Grab Specialist, for the Golden Ray salvage operation.

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The 660-foot Golden Ray capsized on Sept. 8, 2019, in St. Simons Sound, Georgia, near the port of Brunswick. Its intended destination was Baltimore. Loaded with more than 4,000 cars, the Golden Ray suddenly listed to one side and never recovered, capsizing within an hour of leaving its berth. Errors in calculating its ballast were blamed for the accident. The hydraulic grab was used to remove cars from the wreckage. It could pick up as many as 20 vehicles at a time.

In 2016, the grab was used in the salvage of an oil drilling rig called the Troll Solution, according to the Coast Guard. The Troll Solution collapsed into the Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico. The rig was cut up underwater into more than three dozen pieces, which were then lifted to the surface by a crane equipped with the hydraulic claw. The depths of those waters were about 100 feet, significantly deeper than the Patapsco.

In Baltimore, the grab will be used to remove steel and concrete debris from the bottom of the riverbed.

T&T also owns the VB-10000, the largest US-flagged heavy lift vessel with four times the lift capability of the claw currently at Key Bridge. The VB-10000 is too large, however, to fit under the Bay Bridge, said Kevin Teichman, the CEO of the T&T Group.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect T&T Offshore, a marine salvage and services company, owns the equipment.

Hugo Kugiya is a reporter for the Express Desk and has formerly reported for the Associated Press, Newsday, and the Seattle Times.

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