By Alexander Chuikov Izvestia (Moscow), August 13, 2001, p. 3
The Kursk disaster has shown that Russian search-and-rescue services are not ready for complicated underwater operations. Government programs have not improved the situation. Search-and-rescue services are virtually non-existent, having fallen apart since the collapse of the USSR (WPS summary).
The main and most terrible question in the first days of the tragedy was why no one was able to rescue the crew. Rear Admiral Ilya Kozlov, Chief of the Emergencies Ministry Salvage and Special Operations Department, told Izvestia’s correspondents about the plight of the Navy’s search-and-rescue services.
Question: Has anything changed in search-and-rescue services after the Kursk disaster?
Ilya Kozlov: The government gave orders after the catastrophe to figure out how to restore search-and-rescue services. Several federal programs have been proposed but in my opinion nothing has changed. To all appearances, money allocated for these programs has been spent on raising the submarine. However, a group of divers has been trained in Norway – exactly these specialists work in the Barents Sea. Some money has been allocated for repairing and building rescue ships. But as far as I know, Russia does not build anything. In general, nothing has been done, the disaster has not taught us a lesson. We need a special rescue center for training specialists. Unfortunately, the leadership has not created it. As a matter of fact, all Russian divers have lost their skills. No one has allocated money for this for many years, our equipment has become worthless.
Question: How much money does the maintenance of a search-and-rescue service require?
Ilya Kozlov: I think a few billion dollars a year. Previously we had brigades of special ships. We have to repair at least part of them and start building new ones. We must not invent new hardware, it’s better to buy everything abroad. Divers always must be in training like astronauts. We could earn money for furthers training by supporting commercial projects on the shelf. We have to build at least one rescue ship and train divers.
Question: How much does such a ship cost?
Ilya Kozlov: The most up-to-date ship such as the Mayo which works in the Barents Sea costs close to $50 million. Each fleet must have such a ship. In addition we need mobile complexes with divers and diving equipment which can be transported to the tragedy site by air.
Question: Would the Kursk’s crew have been rescued if the Navy’s search-and-rescue services had been equipped properly?
Ilya Kozlov: We would have rescued them if we had had such ships. For instance, we conducted an exercise in the Baltic Sea after the Kursk disaster. We rescued nine people from a diesel submarine which lay on the seabed. It is clear that this was an exercise, and the circumstances were different from those in the Barents Sea. However, the fact is that we rescued people.