Lying on its side in the English Channel, the Tricolor is now so damaged by collisions with other vessels that it must be sliced apart using strengthened wires, according to the salvage company. The Norwegian ship sank on 14 December after striking another cargo vessel, the Kariba. It now lies in 30 metres of water in a shipping lane used by around 70 ships each day, 48 kilometres east of Ramsgate on the English coast. Emergency radio broadcasts and marker buoys have failed to prevent three ships hitting it since.
London Offshore Consultants, the firm assessing how to remove the ship, says the 14,000-tonne vessel is now so damaged that the only solution is to cut it into pieces. Suction piles will be driven into the sand either side of the ship. Wires coated with a super-strong abrasive material will then be used to slice through the ship's hull. Three unnamed consortia are bidding to launch the salvage operation and the contract will be awarded in April.
Another cargo ship, the Nicola, crashed into the wreck two days after the Tricolor sank, causing limited damage to its hull. On 1 January, the captain of another vessel, the Vicky, failed to notice broadcasts and marker buoys to lodge his ship on top of the Tricolor. Another accident occurred on January 22 when one of the salvage tugs being used to inspect the wreck knocked a safety valve off the Tricolor starting another oil spill. An estimated 540 tonnes of oil has already spilt into the Channel from the Tricolor, and a further 600 tonnes leaked from another vessel which struck the wreck. Owned by the Norwegian company Wihl Wilhemsen, the Tricolor was carrying 2,862 luxury cars when sank. The cars will have to be scrapped after the salvage operation.