The Ukrainian tugboat Neftegaz-67 resurfaced in tatters near Tuen Mun yesterday, 37 days after a deadly collision with a mainland freighter. There was a gaping 3-metre-by-4-metre hole in the hull's stern. The deputy head of the Guangzhou Salvage Bureau, He Weizhang, said workers might have to cut the tugboat into sections and ship the pieces away instead of plugging it. 'If we can mend the hole, then we'll make it float again. But if not, we'll have to take it apart and ship it,' he said. Neftegaz-67 collided with the mainland cargo ship Yaohai on March 22 and sank in about two minutes, leaving three dead and 15 missing, presumed dead. Chornomornaftogaz, the Ukrainian oil and gas company that owns the tugboat, contracted the salvage bureau to raise it, thereby recruiting Asia's largest floating derrick, the Hua Tian Long, for the job. The derrick started lifting the Ukrainian tugboat at around 7am yesterday with eight thick cables, visible from a kilometre away. Neftegaz-67's chimney - yellow and blue, the Ukraine's national colours - appeared above the water in the morning. By 1.30pm, most of its bridge had surfaced, followed by its hull at 7.30pm. In the afternoon, workers had to detach and test two cables before continuing, Chornomornaftogaz engineer Oksana Mamokha said. A view of the bridge from the aft showed it was so badly damaged that a cross section of its interior could be seen. One part of the bridge was lifted out separately. Vessels from the salvage bureau, the Hong Kong police and the marine and fire services departments patrolled a 120-hectare area that was cordoned off around the crash site, on a busy deep-sea channel east of Siu Mo To Island. They sprayed chemicals into the water to prevent pollution from the tugboat's leaking fuel. Two concentric floating booms surrounded the salvage site, set about 500 metres apart, to prevent fuel from spreading. The Nan Yang, another derrick from the salvage bureau, floated nose-to-nose to assist the Hua Tian Long as Neftegaz-67 resurfaced. The lift came four days after it was scheduled, having been delayed three times by Typhoon Neoguri, cable damage and rough weather. No one knew for sure how much longer the operation would take, Ms Mamokha said, and there could be further delays. Mr He said: 'After all, this work is being done on the water. The weather conditions can affect the work at any moment.' Workers would try to plug the hole before looking for other possible collision damage, he said. They would then pump water out and search for bodies. Chornomornaftogaz estimated the salvage operation would cost US$10 million.