Olesya Melnichenko, Vladimir Malyshev, Natalia Zolotareva Moskovsky Komsomolets, June 2, 2001

The Rubin Central Design Bureau has signed the contract on raising the submarine Kursk with the Dutch company Mammoet. The Dutch company Smit Tak and the Norwegian company Halliburton Subsea will be subcontractors. However, this contract doesn’t make sense in commercial terms for Russia, whereas Rubin has rejected some more advantageous offers from other firms

After long negotiations and arguments on who will raise the submarine Kursk from the bottom of the Barents Sea, the Russian government signed a contract with the Dutch company Mammoet. Other applicants, the Dutch company Smit Tak and the Norwegian company Halliburton Subsea, will be subcontractors. The submarine will be raised on September 15. The value of the contract has not been made public yet. However, Reuters has reported already that overall, approximately $70 million will be spent on salvaging the Kursk.

Mammoet has raised and transported many and varied heavy vessels. For instance, the Dutch submarines Zwaardvis and Tjigerhaai were transported 80 meters by ground to their floating dock and then delivered from Rotterdam to the Far East. The submarines weighed 1,600 tons each, and they were raised 80 meters in half an hour. Besides, in 2000, Mammoet managed to raise a port lifting crane weighing 1,550 tons that fell in the Danish port of Odensee in a storm.

Practically nothing is known about other foreign firms that applied for participation in this project but failed to be included in it. Why have Moscow and St. Petersburg decided to choose the consortium including the American company Halliburton acting through its Norwegian subsidiary? By the way, the hypothesis of a collision between the Kursk and an American submarine has not been refuted yet, and participation of an American company in this project suggests the thought of some special interest. During the presidential campaign Halliburton became a subject of publications in the American press, since US Vice President Richard Cheney used to work for this firm. Opponents accused Cheney of using his political links for finding profitable contracts for his company. For instance, “The Times” has written that Cheney managed to thrash out a $292-million credit for the Tumen Oil Company so that it would be able to buy equipment from the aforementioned company.

As for Smit Tak, it is rumored to have financial problems. One of the periodicals that has written about these problems is “Lloyd List.” We have also received some noteworthy information from Greece. It has turned out that back in autumn 2000, the Greek company Tsavliris, the largest Greek company engaged in ship lifting, offered its services to the Rubin Central Design Bureau, but did not receive a response. Greek businesspeople are of the opinion that the fight for the contract on raising the Kursk has been conducted by unfair methods. Managing Director of Tsavliris Xenophontos Konstantidis has told a “Moskovsky Komsomolets” correspondent, “We asked Rubin to provide us with the necessary information so that we would be able to elaborate a concrete plan for the salvage operation. However, we did not receive any response from St. Petersburg. At the same time, we have a great experience in this field. Suffice it to say that two years ago our firm successfully elevated the Greek rocket cutter Kostakos from the 160-meter depth. They say that an international tender has been conducted for this project. However, Greek companies did not receive any invitations to take part in this tender.” Director of the Russian Representation of Tsavliris Pyotr Krzhminsky has noted, “The main point is that the Greek company offered its services at a lower price: $50-60 million. We sent a corresponding official proposal to Rubin.”

Perhaps, there were also some other applicants along with Tsavliris, but we know nothing about them. The official cost of the project is kept a secret, as we have noted already. It seems that the “tender” itself was a secret too, although usually tenders are conducted in public with equal rights for all their participants.

All this sounds strange. The most unpleasant fact is that it is not Rubin but the state budget that will fund this project. This project will be financed by taxpayers’ money. A social commercial issued by the Russian government’s PR devoted to fighting tax evasion says: “It’s time to leave the shadows.” That’s true…