The task of clearing debris from the wreck of the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk will be completed today, the Russian Navy said
. The Kursk sank in the Barents Sea last August with the loss of all 118 crew.
"Work on clearing the debris from the vessel will be completed this afternoon as planned," a spokesman for Vice-Admiral Mikhail Motsak, who is coordinating the recovery operation, told Reuters from aboard the warship Severomorsk. An international salvage team aboard the high-tech dive support ship Mayo conducted the clean-up operation using robots controlled from the deck.
The support ship will leave for the Norwegian port of Kirkenes later on Wednesday to swap cleaning equipment for cutting gear, the navy spokesman said. The next stage will be to cut holes for a series of cables that will be used to hoist the main body of the vessel. The bow, where the submarine's torpedoes were stored, will be cut off and left for now on the seabed.
The Kursk sank after a series of powerful blasts which Russian officials say appeared to be triggered by a torpedo explosion that set off most of the arsenal on board.
Russia has contracts with Dutch salvage company Mammoet and Rotterdam-based marine services firm Smit International to recover the Kursk from a depth of 100 m (330 feet). In a statement on Wednesday, Mammoet said
the operation to cut off the bow should begin on August 8 after holes for the 26 cables had been drilled.
Vyacheslav Zakharov, the head of Mammoet's Moscow office, said a main problem facing the operation was a lack of communication between all parties involved. "There are a lot of people and companies engaged in this operation, and not all the people know the actual schedule," he said.
Despite opposition from some environmental groups, Russian President
Vladimir Putin has promised bereaved relatives that the Kursk will be recovered this year at any cost to allow crew to be buried on shore. Only 12 bodies were recovered last year. Some environmental groups say it would be safer to bury the Kursk with its nuclear power reactors under a concrete shell on the sea floor, but Moscow says it is safer to tow the sub ashore and then dismantle the reactors. - (Reuters)