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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 February, 2003, 14:43 GMT
Channel wreck salvage to cost 'millions'
Ambitious plans have been unveiled to recover sunken Channel freighter the Tricolor, months after it sank in the busy shipping lane.

Salvage workers say the wreck will have to be cut into five pieces and lifted ashore one by one - an operation costing millions of pounds.

The ship, and its cargo of thousands of luxury cars, has been half-submerged in the English channel since December, after colliding with another vessel.

Three other ships have since collided with the wreck: an empty tanker called Nicola, the Turkish tanker Vicky, carrying 70,000 tons of fuel, and a vessel sent to pump out the ship's fuel tanks.

We will use a long wire to cut it - we will cut it like you cut a cheese
Per Ronnevig, spokesman for Tricolor's owners

The last collision resulted in oil washing up on the Dutch coastline, affecting hundreds of sea-birds.

Per Ronnevig, a spokesman for the ship's Norwegian owners Wilhelmsen, said: "It will have to be brought up in pieces - it's 20,000 tonnes of steel, and the size of two football fields.

"There isn't a crane in the world that can lift that."

Mr Ronnevig added: "We will use a long wire to cut it - we will cut it like you cut a cheese."

Open in new window : Graphic guide
The Tricolor shipwreck

It is hoped salvage firm Smit Salvage will complete the removal of oil from the wreck in the next few days.

This will then allow the next phase of the recovery to begin.

Extra protection

Three firms, including Smit, are bidding to take on the work which should start in March and be completed by the end of August.

The wreck has to be cut up because of its sheer size - as soon as it is brought above sea level its weight dramatically increases.

Tricolor history
14 Dec: Tricolor and Kariba collide in heavy fog, sinking the former
15 Dec: Cargo ship NSD Provider comes within 500 m of wreck
16 Dec: Freighter Nicola runs into swamped ship
1 Jan: So too does fuel tanker Vicky
23 Jan: Tug boat Alphonse Letzer collision

This makes moving it in one piece almost impossible.

The operation is expected to cost millions of pounds, according to Peter Holloway of the London Offshore Consultants insurer, who are working on the salvage.

The French and Belgian authorities have already set up a temporary radar system, based in Nieuport, Belgium, to provide the Tricolor with extra protection.

The system is being put in place until September - an indication of how long the authorities believe the salvage operation will take.

After the series of collisions, questions have been raised about the salvage operation and measures taken to mark out the wreck to passing traffic.





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WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Simon Montague
"The Tricolor sank after colliding with a cargo ship"



SEE ALSO:
Belgium braced for oil slick
25 Jan 03 |  Europe
'There's a near miss every trip'
09 Jan 03 |  UK News


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