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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 August, 2003, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
First section of Tricolor raised
The raised stern
The stern, weighing 3,000 tons, is the first section to be raised
The first section of a freight ship which sank in the English Channel last year has been raised to the surface.

The 190 metre-long Tricolor has been a major obstacle to shipping in the Channel since it sank about 30 miles off Kent in December.

The 20,000 ton ship was carrying a cargo of luxury cars when it sank after colliding with the container ship Kariba.

It is being raised in nine sections, with work beginning on 18 July and the first section being brought to the surface on Sunday.

The ship is being carved into the separate sections using a special cutting cable, which was also used to cut the nose of the sunken Russian submarine The Kursk before that was raised in 2001.

25m operation

More than 100 people have been involved in the operation to hoist the stern of the Tricolor, which was carrying BMWs, Saabs and Volvos.

How the Tricolor will be raised - and how it sank

Weighing 3,000 tons and measuring 30 metres by 35 metres, it is the largest single piece which will be raised in the 25m operation to lift the sunken ship.

The sections of the ship will each be taken to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge on giant barges after they are brought to the surface.

It is thought they will only be able to be used for scrap metal.

Two large floating cranes and six boats, including a diving support vessel, are being used in the project.

The work is being carried out by a combine team of Dutch and Belgian salvage firms under the name Combinatie Salvage Tricolor.

Floating cranes
Giant floating cranes are being used in the 25m operation

Lars Walder, spokesman for the Dutch company Smit Salvage, said: "It's not an easy operation, it's one of the biggest vessels ever to be lifted.

"It's in the middle of the sea. Although the weather conditions are perfect, it's very difficult.

"It will take the whole summer and we think it will be finished in September.

"The cars will be scrapped. There were some in the stern today - a few fell out but we will pick them up later."

He said there had been a leakage of about 2,000 litres of oil but said it was almost inevitable and that they had a special oil recovery ship alongside.

Tricolor salvage plan begins
10 Jul 03  |  England
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

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