Steve's Marine Disaster Pages


The Tricolor was a purpose built modern Norwegian car carrier, which, on the night of 13/14th December 2002, in very heavy fog, collided with the KARIBA, a fast container ship in the English Channel. She had on board approximately 2,000 new and very expensive Saab, Volvo and BMW cars. I have been (professionally) involved with this particular loss which will cost many millions in lost vessel and cargo.

The great feature of modern car carriers is also their greatest weakness - the single car deck. Having no bulkheads on this deck, allows for large numbers of vehicles to be be transported, BUT... should this deck ever be exposed to the sea, then there is nothing to stop the sea water entering and very quickly, destabilising the whole vessel - exactly what appeared to happen when the KARIBA hit the TRICOLOR and breached the car deck. The Tricolor went over very quickly, while the KARIBA limped into port, her bow severely damaged.
Click on the image on the right to visit the havenarbeiders website that shows incredible photos of the salvage operation.

How such an accident like this could have happened, in the very area that first invented the Traffic Separation Scheme, (leading to the International Collision Regulations (Collregs) remains a mystery, but it appears that the TRICOLOR was attempting to overtake the KARIBA in thick fog and may have misjudged the proximity of the stern of the other vessel.

As if to make an embarrassing situation even worse, on Monday morning (two days later) another German vessel, the NICOLA" then ran aground/collided with the sunken wreck of the Tricolor. Luckily she was pulled off quickly, but further questions were immediately asked about how the wreck had been buoyed and lighted.....
The wreck lay on its side in the English Channel until August 2003, when the operation to cut it up was finally put into action. The method was to (literally) cut the whole ship up into pieces, as if it were a huge cake. To achieve this, two large platforms were placed either side of the wreck and a chain placed beneath the wreck. This chain was then used as a saw, which scythed the TRICOLOR up into manageable chunks that could then be lifted away (cargo and all !) by means of a heavy lift crane.

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