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Sunday, 15 December, 2002, 19:44 GMT
Fog hinders Channel salvage mission
Tricolor on its side
The Tricolor is still visible at low tide
Salvage experts battling with bad weather to retrieve a sunken car carrier are hoping to start pumping fuel from the vessel on Monday.

Fog on Sunday prevented divers going down to examine the wreck of the 55-000 ton Tricolor, which was carrying nearly 3,000 luxury cars when it sank in the English Channel in the early hours of Saturday.

Picture of the Bahamas-registered Kariba container
The Tricolor collided with the container ship Kariba
The Norwegian owners are under immense pressure to move the ship, which is lying just below the surface of the water in the middle of one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

The first task the Dutch salvage team Smit Tak undertook on Sunday was to position beacons around the site to warn other vessels of the hazard.

Smit Tak spokesman Lars Walder told BBC News Online that, weather permitting, they hoped to mobilise a boat on Monday to start pumping out the 2,000 tons of fuel on board the vessel.

He added there did not appear to be any major leaks at the time being.

"The ship is not leaking any of its bunker oil - just a little bit of oil maybe from the engines. That is good news."

Retrieval options

The vessel sank after a collision with a cargo freighter about 30 miles (48 km) east of Ramsgate, Kent.

No-one was injured. Rescue teams quickly retrieved the 24-member crew and took them to safety.

Mr Walder said the method of removing the ship had still to be decided by the owners and insurers.

It could be refloated or lifted by floating cranes.

The Norwegian-registered Tricolor had been travelling from Zeebrugge, Belgium, to Southampton with its multi-million pound cargo of vehicles, including BMWs, Volvos and Saabs, and 77 containers.

The 20,000-ton Bahamas-registered freighter Kariba was badly damaged in the collision but limped back to port in Antwerp, Belgium.

British 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."

Expensive shipment

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 estimated value of the Tricolor itself is about 25m.

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.

"All the cars are probably lying in pieces down there," he said.

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

See also:

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