Bulgaria sunken ship stern raised 6 metres from riverbed

MOSCOW, July 22 (Itar-Tass) — The stern of the Bulgaria ship that sank in the Volga River has been raised from the bottom, the operation to lift the vessel continues,” spokesman for the operational headquarters for the lifting effort Timur Khikmatov told Itar-Tass by telephone.

“Bulgaria’s stern has been moved up six metres from the bottom. Now the forebody lifting work will be started,” the official said.

At this stage the Bulgaria boat is to be raised 1 to 1.5 metres from the water. After that the vessel’s sealing will be started.

Only after the water is fully pumped out of the ship, she will be completely lifted and towed to a floating dock.

The headquarters reported earlier that the recovery of the sunken ship was scheduled to start on July 22.

The Bulgaria motor ship, sailing on a pleasure cruise on the route from Bolgary to Kazan, sank in the Kuibyshev Reservoir on the Volga River on July 10 at a distance of three kilometres from the shore at a depth of 22 metres. The ship, built in 1955, listed to starboard and in several minutes sank.

There were 208 people on board the Bulgaria, some passengers were not registered. A total of 79 people were rescued. The officially confirmed death toll as of today stands at 114 people, and 15 are still unaccounted for.

The Russian River Register permitted the Bulgaria to carry no more than 120 people.

The Bulgaria had six rescue rafts for 120 people and two rescue boats for 36. It had compartments for one, two, three or four passengers.

The Kama River Shipping Company is the official owner of the Bulgaria. It leased the ship to Vodaflot, and the latter sub-leased the Bulgaria to Argorechflot in 2010. The ship made voyages from Kazan to Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Bolgary and Volgograd. Shipbuilders said that the diesel-and-electric-powered vessels of the Bulgaria type had a service life of no more than 20 years. Longer use was possible on the condition of constant maintenance and modernization. The Bulgaria had its last full checkout at the Perm shipyard on May 24, 2007. Some 120 passenger ships are cruising rivers in European Russia. An average period of their use is 30 years. There are three vessels of the Bulgaria type. About 14.5 million tourists went on river cruises in Russia in 2010.

The Bulgaria was a class 785/OL800 Russian river cruise ship (built in Komarno, Czechoslovakia) which operated in the Volga-Don basin. On July 10, 2011, Bulgaria sank in the Kuibyshev Reservoir of the Volga River near Syukeyevo, Kamsko-Ustyinsky District, Tatarstan, Russia. The sinking of Bulgaria is the largest Russian non-military ship disaster since 1986 when the SS Admiral Nakhimov crashed into a cargo ship and 423 people died.

The Bulgaria was built in 1955 as Ukraina, and was renamed in February 2010 to Bulgaria after the Volga Bulgaria. Her length was 80.2 metres (263 ft), her beam was 12.5 metres (41 ft), her draft was 1.9 metres (6.2 ft), and her power output was 273 kilowatts (366 hp). She had two engines and two decks. Her cruising speed was 20.5 kilometres per hour (12.7 mph), and her original passenger capacity was 233 (then reduced after overhaul).

At the time of the sinking, Bulgaria was owned by Kama River Shipping Company, which leased the ship to OOO Briz, which in turn subleased it to OOO Argorechtur, which operated it, according to media reports, on a bareboat charter. That means OOO Argorechtur accepted sole liability for technical maintenance and crew placement. Investigators claim that Argorechtur was operating the cruise ship without a proper licence, and the director of OOO Argorechtur was arrested on 12 July 2011.

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