BRITISH STEELWORK suppliers for Greece's Rion Antirion Bridge are fighting to claw back from insurers the cost of replacing six main girders lost at sea during shipping.
The 155t of fabricated steel members were lost in the Bay of Biscay last October, en route from Cleveland Bridge's Darlington yard to the Gulf of Corinth.
Sixty additional fabricated steel girders stowed in the hold were found to have been seriously damaged as the ship was flung about in a storm, said Peter Iley, technical director at lead consultant FaberMaunsell.
The incident has wiped out the five week 'float' that main contractor Vinci had built up against the programmed schedule for completion.
It is still hoped a runner will be able to carry the Olympic flame across the bridge on 8 August for the 2004 Games in Athens.
But 'there is now absolutely no room for any further accidents or unexpected bad weather, ' said Iley.
A Cleveland Bridge spokesman said the firm was this week entering 'commercially sensitive' negotiations with insurers to recover costs of replacing the lost girders. No details of the cost of the claim were available.
The total 2,500t consignment was the penultimate in a total steelwork supply contract of 20,000t.
After losing the girders, Cleveland Bridge was forced to reassemble the production line used to manufacture the girders at its Darlington HQ and to scout internationally for replacement steel.
'The right kind of steel proved difficult to source. It's thick, at 75mm to 100mm and is needed in a range of specific qualities to conform with the design, ' Iley said.
The girders, each of which has a unique geometry, have now been made up and shipped out to Greece following what Iley described as a 'stirling effort' by the contractor.
Work to repair the girders damaged in October is ongoing.