Two cranes approach the Bulgaria wreck area.

16/7 Tass 2

MOSCOW, July 16 (Itar-Tass) —— Two cranes are expected to reach the scene of the Bulgaria wreck on Saturday morning – the Moguchy floating crane from Volgograd and another crane from Dubna, called the Kanal Imeni Moskvy /the Moscow Canal/.

The cargo capacity of each crane is 350 tonnes.

The lifting may begin on July 18 at 10:00 Moscow time, Head of Rosmorrechflot Alexander Davydenko told Itar-Tass. As water is pumped from the boat, the vessel will be transported to a floating dock.

Head of Russia’s EMERCOM, Sergei Shoigu said that the schedule of the rescue operation may be optimized, especially since the lifting operation will involve divers who work at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric power station. He assured that all rescue works in the area will be continued until the vessel is lifted. Part of divers will inspect the bottom of the area following the lifting of the Bulgaria, he added.

Seventy-nine people (56 passengers and 23 crew) were reported to have survived the sinking. 76 of them were rescued by the cruise ship Arabella, a few others were saved by other boats, and one survivor managed to swim to the shore himself. At the time of the incident, the Bulgaria passenger’s count is estimated to have been at 208, though she was rated to carry only 120.

According to survivors, two ships (oil tanker the Volgoneft-104 and freighter the Arbat) were passing by after the Bulgaria had sunk. Those ships did not stop to help and the Russian Investigative Committee has launched an official investigation into these claims. In accordance with the Russian legislation, captain of a ship that refuses to help in disaster should be sentenced to up to two years in prison. However, it may also be that those ships, being heavy freight barges with minimal crews, were not technically capable of stopping as they passed by or of turning back within reasonable time. The barge owners refused to give any comments. The technical reasons may not be sufficient to justify the refusal, though. Assistance from the towboat the Dunaijskij 66 with two barges that appeared later on after accident, was refused by the Arabella’s captain assuming that the towboat would not have provided useful help and would only hinder the rescue.

On July 11, an anonymous source close to the committee investigating into the sinking said that the likely cause was portholes that were opened because of lack of air conditioning on the vessel, which allowed water to enter the Bulgaria when the captain attempted to turn the ship in stormy weather.

Evidence suggested that a number of safety violations could have caused or compounded the disaster. According to one survivor, emergency exit doors on the boat had been sealed or locked. Investigators also suggested that the boat set sail with a list to the right, possibly due to full sewage or fuel tanks on that side, and with one of its engines not properly functioning. Some survivors told Russian news agencies that they had begged the captain to turn round because of the list, but were ignored. There were conflicting reports about whether the boat and the cruise operator were properly licensed for passenger cruises.

President Dmitry Medvedev on July 11 ordered “a complete check on all means of passenger transport” in Russia in response to the sinking of the Bulgaria, and also declared July 12 a national day of mourning for those killed in the incident.

The MS Bulgaria, which sank on the Volga River on Sunday, passed a scheduled examination in the middle of June and was recognised suitable for operation, the Russian Transport Ministry reported earlier. “According to the Russian inland water transport register, the MS Bulgaria passed a scheduled examination on June 15, 2011. The ship was found operational in all features,” the ministry reported. The life rafts and boats on the vessel were intended for 156 people. The ship had also 177 rescue jackets, including those for children. “The rescue equipment met the requirements of the Russian inland water transport register,” the ministry said.

The vessels built more than 25 years ago are subjected to annual sailing inspections, which include the examination of the sailing, rescue and radio navigation equipment. The ministry confirmed that the motor ship was built in Czechoslovakia in 1955 and was not reequipped since then. “The architectural and structural design was being kept under the design project,” a source in the ministry said. Meanwhile, the vessel passed an inspection of the hull, sailing and electric onboard equipment at the Perm shipyard between the navigation seasons in 2007. “The motor ship was found in an operational technical condition then. No major malfunctions were found in its technical condition from 2007 to 2011,” according to the press service of the Transport Ministry.

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