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Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 13:25 GMT
Another ship in 'near miss' with wreck
The UK coastguard agency say there was a near miss
Pictures show the ship close to the wreck
A fourth vessel nearly became involved in a collision with the sunken freighter Tricolor in the English Channel.

Photographs just released suggest a ship was about 100 metres from hitting the submerged vessel before it was warned to change course by a UK coastguard aircraft shaking its wings.

This latest incident will further fuel claims France mishandled the aftermath of a collision in its waters.

The Tricolor collided with a cargo freighter on Saturday before another cargo ship collided with the wreck in the early hours of Monday.

Meanwhile poor weather conditions are hampering the salvage operation of the sunken freighter.

Danger warnings

The French authorities have been accused of not doing enough to warn other ships about the sunken vessel's whereabouts in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

But the Dutch firm Smit Salvage, that will oversee the recovery of Tricolor, believes adequate warnings were given.

Open in new window : Graphic guide
The Tricolor shipwreck

Photographs taken by the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency's counter-pollution aircraft taken on Sunday show no visible signs of French activity.

An MCA spokesman told BBC News Online the photographs showed the ship, the NDS Provider, was about 100 metres or so from the Tricolor.

The Tricolor
The Tricolor is still lying in the Channel
"Clearly there was a near miss.

"The pollution aircraft had to waggle its wings, " he said.

Hanseatic, which manages the NDS Provider, told BBC News Online it was waiting for a full report from the NDS Provider about how close it came to the wreck.

Jim Nelson, technical director of the Cyprus-based firm, said: "Our understanding is that the vessel was aware that the wreck was there,"

David Osler, Industrial editor for Lloyds List, the London based maritime newspaper, said the photographs did not show any ships or tugs warning vessels or buoys marking the site.

But Lars Walder, spokesman for Smit Salvage, does not believe the French maritime authorities could have done more to warn other vessels about the wreck.

He told BBC News Online: "There were enough buoys and ships around it.

"Everyone was warned. I think it will be difficult to blame anyone."

The Nicola
The crew of the Nicola were not hurt

The Tricolor sank with 30m of luxury cars on board after colliding with cargo freighter Kariba in thick fog on Saturday. No-one was injured.

The cargo ship Nicola then hit the Tricolor on Monday.

Its German owner Intersee claims there were no visible markers to indicate the wreck and the co-ordinates provided by the French authorities were incorrect.

The ship was resting on the seabed about three miles west of the position given, it claimed.

But the French maritime prefecture, has defended its actions.

It said the position of the Tricolor had already been marked by two buoys.

Other buoys would be put in place in the next few days but bad weather was hampering this given the height and size of the markers.

It has also said radio warnings had been broadcast by the French coastguard service at half-hour intervals.

British Navy vessel HMS Anglesey, a French navy boat and two vessels from the salvage firm are alerting passing ships to the danger posed by the 55,000-ton Tricolor.

Tugs pulled Nicola clear from the wreck on Monday.

See also:

15 Dec 02 | Europe
15 Dec 02 | Europe
14 Dec 02 | Europe
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