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Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Kursk lift 'unlikely' before 2001
Seaway Eagle
The Seaway Eagle has berthed in Norway
The firm asked by Russia to investigate the possibility of lifting the Kursk has said the operation is unlikely to begin before the middle of next year.

Stolt Offshore, which has regional headquarters in Aberdeen, estimated that a feasibility study would take months to complete.

Spokesman Julian Thomson said: "In practical terms, I'd say that a lifting would be in summer next year at the earliest, if we can find a safe way of doing it."

Stolt Offshore's team of four Norwegian and eight British divers was based on the diving support ship the Seaway Eagle, which was sent from Aberdeen to the Barents Sea.

On the face of it, totally prejudging the feasibility study, it looks like lifting would be the easiest way to go

Julian Thomson
The divers opened the Kursk's escape hatch on Monday but found the submarine flooded and concluded that all 118 crew were dead.

Stolt, which specialises in diving for the North Sea oil and gas industry and salvage work, agreed on Tuesday to a Russian request to study ways of raising the wreck or recovering the corpses.

The company had initially hoped that planning for the operation would take weeks rather than months.

But the approach of winter cold and darkness meant any operation would have to wait for months.

The Kursk, before its ill-fated exercise
Mr Thomson said that first indications seemed that it would be easier to plan to raise the submarine than to open it and retrieve corpses from cramped compartments on the seabed 108 metres (354 ft) down.

If studies showed it was impossible to raise the wreck, however, a mission might try to recover the bodies.

"On the face of it, totally prejudging the feasibility study, it looks like lifting would be the easiest way to go," he said.

"Trying to recover the bodies would be particularly hazardous, because of the nuclear reactor, munitions and numerous risks of snagging for divers," he said.

He said Stolt Offshore would supply Russia within 10 days with a list of information it needed about the structure of the submarine, the weapons aboard and the nuclear reactors to help planning.

The Seaway Eagle docked in the Norwegian port of Kirkenes on Wednesday.

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See also:

23 Aug 00 | Scotland
Fishermen fear Kursk radiation
22 Aug 00 | Scotland
Kursk bodies recovery planned
22 Aug 00 | Europe
Russia mourns Kursk crew
22 Aug 00 | Europe
Kursk's final hours
17 Aug 00 | Scotland
Rescue team's global role
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