THE KURSK CANNOT GET OUT OF THE STORM

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Yury Kirillov, Ilya Bulavinov Kommersant, August 27, 2001, p. 2

If the Kursk operation does not end in 2001 no one will be responsible of the failure to raise the sunken submarine.

DIVERS HAVE SUSPENDED THE KURSK OPERATION BECAUSE OF UNFAVORABLE WEATHER

Owing to the same reason, the Carrier barge carrying equipment for cutting off the first compartment of the sunken submarine has postponed its departure from the Kirkines port. To all appearances, pessimistic forecasts by specialists who stated last spring that Russia would not be able to raise the Kursk submarine because of delays in choosing contractors have come true.

The storm in the Barents Sea reached five knots on August 26, the wind speed was close to 20 meters per second. In this regard, the command of the operation decided to evacuate divers from the seabed. The command planned to wait until the storm was over and then to restart the operation on the morning of August 27.

This was the fourth suspension of the operation during the past week. Cutting of technological holes, to which special metal ropes will be fastened, was suspended on August 19, 21, and 23. At the same time; however, this is not the only problem. The schedule of raising the Kursk submarine was changed because tests of hardware, which will be used for cutting off the first compartment, have not proved the results of initial estimates. Vyacheslav Zakharov, chair of the Moscow office of the company Mammoet, and Igor Dygalo, Chief of the Navy Press Service, said that this would not affect the timing of the operation.

Meanwhile, all technological holes are to be cut by August 29. To date, divers have cut 22 out of 26 holes in the hull of the submarine. This means that they will have to cut four holes within the next two days. This is unrealistic because they only managed to cut five holes during the past week. In the meantime, the Navy has little time. Cutting of the first compartment will take six or seven days, and the same time is needed for preparing the submarine for the raising. In other words, suspensions of the operations will entail postponing the date of raising the submarine on September 15.

This is not the main problem. The Kursk will wait until September 16 or longer if the weather does not prevent the operation. As is known, late August is a more favorable period than late September.

These problems might have been prevented if Russian officials and designers from the Rubin bureau had not delayed in choosing the contractor. If the contract to raise the submarine had been signed in February or March, not May, the operation would have started much earlier and the Kursk would have been raised before the August storms. However, if the Kursk is not raised this year no one will be held responsible. The Rubin design bureau will say that projects to raise the submarine proposed earlier were not safe. Government officials will say that other potential contractors set unacceptable conditions, and the management of Mammoet will remember that they promised to end the operation in 2001 if the weather would allow so. Everyone will be right in a sense.

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