Luxury Cars Lost in Channel Sinking Valued at $48 Million

December 16, 2002

A collision early Saturday morning in the English Channel resulted in the sinking of the Norwegian cargo ship Tricolor and the probable loss of its cargo of luxury cars valued at £30 million ($47.68 million).

The 55,000-ton Tricolor collided with the 20,000-ton Bahamas-registered freighter Kariba in thick fog 30 miles east of Margate, and sank a few hours later. Crewmembers abandoned the vessel, and were picked up by Belgian and French patrol vessels. All hands are reported safe.

The Tricolor’s cargo consisted of 77 containers and over 2000 specially ordered Volvos, BMWs and Saabs destined for Britain and the U.S. Although their declared value was estimated at £30 million, according to a BBC report the retail value of the vehicles is more than double that amount, around $95 million. The value of the ship itself was estimated at £25 million ($40 million). Authorities have indicated that it is very unlikely that any of the vehicles can be salvaged.

The vessel poses several additional threats. It sank in shallow water – the hull is above sea level at low tide – in one the of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, rather like an overturned truck in the middle of the Santa Monica Freeway. On Monday morning, despite warnings and precautions in place, a 3,000-ton cargo vessel had already collided with the wreck, and was waiting for high tide to be able to float free.

There’s also the danger of oil pollution from the 2,000 tons of fuel oil carried by the Tricolor, although no leaks have been reported. Authorities are currently trying to figure out the best and quickest method of removing the ship from the channel.

The ship’s insurers have not yet announced any preliminary loss estimates.

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