BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Sunday, 15 December, 2002, 09:03 GMT
30m cargo 'lost' as ship sinks
The Tricolor
An inquiry has been launched into the sinking
Nearly 3,000 new luxury cars on board a carrier ship which sank in the English Channel are almost certainly write-offs, salvage experts have said.

The multi-million pound cargo of vehicles, including BMWs, Volvos and Saabs, is lying on the seabed inside the sunken Norwegian carrier ship the Tricolor.

The 55,000-ton vessel sank after colliding with a 20,000-ton container vessel in the early hours of Saturday.

A salvage company is sending a ship to the area with divers on board to try to find a way of removing the wreck - lying in about 25m of water.

Tricolor crew members at hospital in Dunkirk, France
The crew members were taken to hospital in France
HM Coastguard Lee Drew said: "The wreck must really go as soon as possible, because the Dover Straits is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world - and this is the actual crossroads where ships come from and to the European ports."

All 24 crew members survived the incident, which happened about 30 miles (48km) east of Ramsgate, Kent.

The Tricolor had been travelling from Zeebrugge, Belgium, to Southampton with its cargo of 2,862 cars and 77 containers when it hit the container ship the Kariba.

The value of the cargo was put at 30m, though the cars would have fetched double that at retail prices, motor industry experts say.

The car carrier also had about 2,000 tons of oil on board, according to Lloyd's Casualty Reporting Service.

An anti-pollution plan was drawn up by the French authorities managing the incident, but a French naval officials said there was no sign of any leakage.

The Tricolor crew abandoned ship and took to lifeboats after the collision at 0130 GMT on Saturday.

The captain and two officers were rescued by the Kariba while the rest of the mostly Filipino crew were picked up by a tug boat and have been taken to hospital in the French port Dunkirk.

The Kariba, registered in the Bahamas, was severely damaged but was able to make its own way to the Belgian port of Antwerp.

Warship at scene

The estimated value of the Tricolor itself is about 25m, and the cargo about 30m.

Per Ronnevigsaid, spokesman for the Tricolor's owners Wilhelmsen Lines, said the ship and cargo owners would work with the insurers.

But he said it was likely the cars would probably have to be written off.

"She [the Tricolor] probably capsized when she went down. It means that all the cars are probably lying in pieces down there."

Picture of the Bahamas-registered Kariba container
The Tricolor collided with the container ship Kariba

Dover Coastguard said a Belgian warship, the Wandelaar, was in the area helping French coastguards to deal with the incident.

A UK coastguard emergency towing vessel was sent to the scene along with other tugs.

The Tricolor was initially only partly submerged because of a low tide.

But it later disappeared from view.

UK coastguards said it was up to the ship's owners as to what would happen to the vessel's cargo.

But salvage expert Robin Middleton said: "History indicates [the vehicles] will not be suitable for re-processing once they are taken out of the water.

"By and large in the past cargoes such as this have been scrapped in their entirety."

An inquiry will be launched by the French authorities into the cause of the accident.

The BBC's Samantha Simmonds
"There was a thick fog"

Click here to go to Kent

Click here to go to Southampton
See also:

11 Dec 02 | Europe
16 Dec 01 | Wales
31 Oct 00 | Europe
14 May 02 | England
15 Dec 02 | Europe
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |