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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 07:59 GMT 08:59 UK
Tricolor salvage plan begins
The Tricolor
An anti-pollution vessel will be present for the salvage operation
An operation to remove the wreck of the sunken freighter Tricolor from the Channel is moving into its main phase.

The huge car carrier, which was carrying almost 3,000 luxury vehicles, has been stranded about 30 miles east of the Kent coast at Ramsgate since it sank in December 2002.

Cutting equipment which will slice the 50,000-tonne Tricolor into several sections before it is raised piece by piece is expected to leave Zeebrugge shortly.

Over the next few weeks a consortium including Dutch salvage experts Smit Salvage will oversee the operation to remove the ship.

Diamond wire system

Preparatory work has been under way since the recovery contract was agreed by Wilhelmsen, the Norwegian owners of the stricken ship, in April.

How the Tricolor will be raised - and how it sank

The salvage team will use a specially designed diamond wire cutting system to divide the wreck into nine sections, which will then be taken ashore separately by huge barges for scrap.

A similar wire system was used to raise the Russian submarine Kursk from the Barents Sea in 2001.

French coastguard authorities have approved the plan, which includes measures to warn ships during the operation and maintaining an anti-pollution vessel on the scene.

Oil spillage

Three ships have collided with the half-submerged wreck in the past six months: an empty tanker called Nicola, the Turkish tanker, Vicky, carrying 70,000 tons of fuel, and a tug boat.

Many seabirds were affected by an oil spillage from the wreck in January.

The operation is expected to take until early autumn, depending on weather conditions.

The cost has not been disclosed but it has been estimated the ship's removal would run into millions of pounds.

The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"She's lying on her side at the bottom of the seabed"

Deal struck to salvage Tricolor
11 Apr 03  |  England
Belgium braced for oil slick
25 Jan 03  |  Europe
'There's a near miss every trip'
09 Jan 03  |  UK News
Liner damaged in Channel collision
24 Aug 99  |  UK News

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