Russia signed a deal with Dutch salvage and heavy transport firm Mammoet to raise the wrecked nuclear submarine Kursk, which plunged to the bottom of the Barents Sea last year killing all 118 sailors on board.
Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said
the Russian navy, the St Petersburg-based Rubin bureau which designed the submarine and Mammoet had signed a contract to lift the Kursk this summer. He did not give the value of the deal, but has said that the salvage would cost about $70 million.
"The preparatory work will begin today and the operation will be in two stages," Klebanov said. "The first will begin in mid-July and be completed about September 8-10. The second, the direct lifting of Kursk, will happen between 10-20 September."
He said navy and Rubin specialists would cut off the vessel's torpedo bay and the rest of the sub would be lifted and towed to dock in a final operation lasting eight to 10 hours.
President Vladimir Putin has always pledged to recover the dead from the Kursk, which was torn open by two unexplained explosions last August 18. But Mammoet emerged only at the last minute from protracted talks on who would salvage the vessel. On the eve of the signing, a consortium comprising Dutch firms Smit Internationale NV
and Heerema and U.S. firm Halliburton said Russia had rejected their bid for the contract after more than six months of negotiations. Smit said there was too little time to prepare safely to raise the Kursk this summer as Russia demanded, but the firm said it would seriously consider accepting Mammoet's offer to join them in a plan radically different to Smit's own.
"We have to study their plan first and know everything about financing and any technical problems, so we haven't decided what to do," Smit spokesman Lars Walder said, adding that technicians would spend the weekend looking at Mammoet's scheme. Mammoet said
it wanted Smit to help with the maritime aspects of the project. - (Reuters)