Only the weather can hamper the Kursk lifting

Publish date: September 25, 2001

Written by: Viktor Khabarov

Due to worsening weather conditions, all ships leave the area of the Kursk lifting operation. Recent official statements suggest that only the weather can hamper the raising of the submarine

The Giant-4 barge still has to drift 20 miles away from Rybachy Peninsula. It does not go to the salvage area, as the 7th and 8th compartments of the submarine are not completely ready for the so-called directing buckets (guides), where the lifting cables will be inserted. The diving support ship Mayo, is anchored at the wreck site just above Kursk.

According to the head of the Northern Fleet press service, Vladimir Navrotsky, the wind speed in the salvage area is 12 m/s, increasing up to 15 m/s in the evening.

Yesterday, five out of ten holes were cleaned out and equipped with guides, largely due to an upgrade of the hydraulic jack.

Vladimir Navrotsky also said that the hydraulic jack has to be lifted due to the worsening weather conditions, but the divers want to continue the work anyway.

Navrotsky added that if the weather allows work to continue until the evening, the Giant-4 vessel may arrive at the salvage area already tomorrow. The vessel needs about one day to anchor and position over Kursk. So, it is likely that the divers start attaching the cables to the Kursk hull on September 27th.

The weather forecast is not promising for tomorrow, and all the ships will abandon the site. After September 27th the weather is expected to improve for three or four days, and then Kursk can be safely tugged to the dock, given no technical problems occur.

The first compartment may not be cut off
Last Friday, Russia’s top submarine designer, Igor Spassky, and the navy deputy commander, Igor Dygalo, acknowledged that it is not absolutely certain that the devastated torpedo section in the bow of Kursk has been completely separated from the rest of the hull. The final conclusion will be made when the lifting starts. If necessary, the equipment of Giant-4 will be used. Mammoet representatives however, are positive the first compartment is cut off completely. The company’s spokeswoman said that even though this was not possible to visually confirm, the changes in the behaviour of the saw at the end of the cutting operation prove that the compartment is separated completely.

Due to two concerns the first compartment has to be separated from the submarine prior to lifting: the seriously damaged torpedo section may fall off, distorting all the dynamic load calculations on the lifting cables and hoists installed onboard the Giant 4 barge. Secondly, it is feared that unexploded torpedoes are still present in this section of the submarine.

So far no final document has been signed by Mammoet and the Russian side, confirming that the separation of the torpedo section was complete. A protocol was signed, however, stating that the complete separation of the section would be established during the lifting of the submarine.

Whether the torpedo section will create problems big enough to miss the short periods of good weather, remains to be seen.