Russian aircraft carrier damaged after dry dock sinks

One worker missing after flagship ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ struck by falling cranes

Russia’s aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in Murmansk in 2009.  Photograph: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images

Russia’s aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in Murmansk in 2009. Photograph: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images

 

Russia’s flagship Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier was damaged on Tuesday when a dry dock where the vessel was undergoing modernisation in the northwest of the country accidentally sank.

Russian navy rescue divers were searching for a worker who went missing during the incident at a ship yard near the port of Murmansk on the Arctic Barents Sea. Four other workers were given medical treatment after falling into icy waters.

The Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier was struck by giant cranes that toppled over as the PD-50 dry dock flooded with water in the early hours of Tuesday morning. An initial investigation indicated that a power cut had caused water pumps at the dry dock to malfunction just as the carrier was exiting the facility.

Alexei Rakhmanov, the president of Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation, said a falling crane weighing 70 tonnes had punched a 4 metre by 5 metre hole in the deck and body work of the Admiral Kuznetsov, but insisted the carrier could be quickly mended. “We are talking about repairs to the metal structure,” he told the Ria Novosti news agency. “It’s standard work for our welders that will take a week or so.”

Built at a shipyard in Soviet Ukraine in the 1980s, the Admiral Kuznetsov is the only large aircraft carrier in the Russian fleet and is equipped to carry up to 41 war planes and helicopters as well as defence missiles.

Russia’s defence ministry contracted United Shipbuilding to oversee a multimillion-dollar overhaul of the carrier in April that is expected to take 2½ years to complete.

Plans are to replace the ship’s boilers and flight control systems and install new on-board cruise missiles.

Russian officials said the Alexander Kuznetsov had been transferred to a neighbouring shipyard on Tuesday where the modernisation work would continue on schedule.

The Alexander Kuznetsov played a brief active role in 2016 in Russia’s military campaign in Syria where the Russian air force is supporting ground troops loyal to president Bashar al-Assad. However, the mission suffered two serious setbacks after first a military helicopter and then a warplane crashed while trying to land or take off from the carrier.

Returning to Russia via the English Channel in early 2017, the Alexander Kuznetsov became the target of western media reports which scoffed at the clouds of black smoke billowing from the carrier.

One of the workers injured in the accident at PD-50 was in a critical condition in a Murmansk hospital on Tuesday evening. “Doctors are fighting to save his life,” Marina Kovtun, the governor of Murmansk region, said in a video statement posted on Twitter. “Unfortunately, one person has not yet been found.”

The Russian navy was working with ecological experts to clean up a spill from a diesel tank punctured during the accident. “There is no ecological catastrophe.”