LESSONS FROM THE TRAGEDY

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By Sergei Ishchenko Trud, August 22, 2001, p. 4

What should be done to prevent another submarine disaster? Views from one of the most experienced specialists in naval search-and-rescue services, who has supervised the raising of a number of sunken Soviet submarines: Major General Yury Senatsky (WPS summary).

All year since the sinking of the Kursk, specialists have tried to extract practical lessons from the disaster, in order to prevent such things from happening in the future. This was the topic of our conversation with one of the most experienced specialists of naval search-and-rescue services, who has supervised the raising of a number of sunken Soviet submarines: Major General Yury Senatsky.

According to Senatsky, the major concern should be raising the front section of the Kursk. This would help to boost the morale of the people serving on the same class submarines, and to prevent rumors of “secrets” about why the Kursk sank.

Unfortunately, the front section is seriously damaged, so raising it together with the rest of the submarine would be very difficult or even impossible. As long raising the front section remains an issue for the future and is to be resolved by Russian specialists, the possibility of learning the reason for the sinking remains, obviously, limited.

Senatsky stressed that Russia is practically without a rescue service today. But in 1991 it held the second place in the world. However, most of the rescue vessels were sold as scrap metal, some went abroad – all on vague grounds. When former deep-water divers all over Russia offered their services last August for rescuing the Kursk crew, the navy command had to refuse because there was no diving craft available.

Unquestionably, since the Kursk disaster the navy has made some efforts to re-establish a search-and-rescue service. However, there is the possibility that money would be wasted, instead of fulfilling the international naval convention that Russia signed in 1978, and in accordance with which every naval power must have a single state naval rescue service.

Senatsky says that the Mammoet company’s activity seems reasonable and efficient. The only trouble can be caused by weather: if the steel cables break, the Kursk reactors or torpedoes may not withstand a second impact on the seabed. To prevent this, the Kursk should probably not be raised more than a few meters above the seabed. Then it should be towed in this position.

As we went to print, reports arrived that a storm has forced a delay in the salvage operation. The submarine is planned to be in dock by September 15. However, there is much uncertainty in the plans concerning the whole operation. Thus, for instance, there is no knowing exactly where the Kursk center of gravity is located, or what route it will be towed along.

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