Lifting the Kursk

Publish date: July 11, 2001

Written by: Viktor Khabarov

Divers will arrive to the Barents Sea by mid July; Murmansk governor is contented with the safety procedures; shipyard, which awaits the Kursk, has no funds to pay electricity bills.

A ship with divers aboard called at the port in Kirkenes on July 10th. Around July 14th, the ship is expected to arrive at the site in the Barents Sea, where Kursk submarine sank, to commence preparation of the salvage operation.

Russian energy suppliers request debts from the Northern Fleet threatening to cut electricity supply off to shipyard 82 in Roslyakovo, where the Kursk is to be towed to.

Rescue expedition
Military vessels and auxiliary ships were dispatched from Northern Fleet’s bases to the place of the Kursk disaster on July 4th. All the vessels will participate in the rescue expedition.

Nuclear powered cruiser Peter the Great and cruiser Marshal Ustinov, as well as antisubmarine vessels Admiral Kharlamov and Severomorsk, three rescue ships, floating hospital, Svir, will take part in the first stage of the lifting operation.

Besides, a fire ship, three support tankers, two floating cranes, two transport aircrafts and five helicopters from the naval aviation will be also engaged in the operation.

Rear Admiral Mihail Motsak will lead the rescue expedition. The operation head-quarters, under Motsak’s command, will be onboard antisubmarine vessel Severomorsk.

Russian scientists went to the place of the Kursk accident aboard Mihail Rudnitzky vessel. They will monitor radiation levels in the area.

No increased radiation detected
Twice, in the winter 2000 and in the spring 2001, Murmansk Marine Biology Institute sent expeditions to the place of the Kursk accident. The scientists tried to find out whether there was a discharge of radioactivity from the Kursk. Samples of water, sediments, and all seabed life forms were taken in the area close to the Kursk. Fish, crabs, and seaweed were examined as well. Scientists from Murmansk Marine Biology Institute set special traps, which were to record information from the Barents seabed during a couple of months. The scientists several times lifted the traps up and found no increased radiation levels. Currently vessels of Northern Fleet’s meteorological department work at the site of the submarine accident.

Murmansk governor concerned with safety
Murmansk governor, Yury Yevdokimov, sent letters and requested the Russian government and representatives of the Central Design Bureau (CDB) Rubin to outline the safety procedures during the lifting operation. In his opinion, radiation level in the Barents Sea close to the Kursk was normal so far. “But what can happen when we pull the submarine up, lift it and then start towing? I want to know whether the project, developed by experts, whose qualification and professionalism are in no doubt, contains section that stipulates environmental safety procedures?” the governor wrote.

In response, Igor Spassky, director of CDB Rubin, invited Yury Yevdokimov to examine all the details of the project.

According to press reports, the governor was contented with the results of the meeting and safety precautions to be taken.

First stage of salvage operation
Slicing off the torpedo compartment located in the bow part of the submarine will be the first stage of the operation.

Eight Russian divers from the staff of principal divers in the Russian Navy will examine the bow section of the Kursk and install equipment to pump out the sediments. Foreign divers will work in a diving bell without entering into the submarine. Destroyed bow section will be cut off and raised later.

Torpedoes onboard the submarine, which did not explode, and other ammunition pose the most serious threat at that stage of the operation.

The bow section is to be cut off by the beginning of August. Afterwards, the divers will drill holes through the hull to install gripping devices and lift the Kursk up.

Energy suppliers threaten to black out for shipyard no. 82
Kolenergo energy utility, which is by now fully administrated by a Moscow based enterprise, threatened to cut off electricity supply to shipyard no. 82 in Roslyakovo, where the Kursk was to be towed to. Moscow energy managers accurately chose the momentum to request the debt from the military industry of Murmansk County, which owes energy providers 43 million rubles, an equivalent to $1.5 million. Vyacheslav Popov, the Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Fleet, wrote a letter to Murmansk governor, Yury Yevdokimov, saying, ”One of the electricity supply lines at the shipyard in Roslyakovo was cut off for failing to pay for electricity bill. As a result, the balance of energy supply at the shipyard has been disordered. Consequences of that disturbance might threaten nuclear and radiation safety.”

Meanwhile, the state energy supervising agency Gosenergonadzor inspected 97 energy substations of Kolenergo energy utility and announced the situation at these substation unsatisfactory, RBC news agency reported. Among the substations is the one, which will supply electricity to the dry dock at shipyard no. 82 in Roslaykovo, where the Kursk submarine will be placed in September. The commission discovered a number of serious defects that may lead to an emergency situation at the energy station any time. These defects should be removed before the Kursk is in the dock. The repairing, however, would require 19.5 million rubles ($667,000) and Kolenergo does not have such assets.