Sewol ferry that lies submerged in the waters off the south-western tip of South Korean coast will be salvaged in a phased manner. As a first step towards beginning of the salvage operations, the China-based consortium under the supervision of Shanghai Salvage did the preliminary inspection by deploying 50 divers. They dived deep into the waters in three groups to inspect, note and report on the exact location of the submerged ferry. Extra care was taken to determine the location of the sunken ship’s fuel tank so that pollution could be contained or kept at a minimum. Oil or fuel removal operations would be carried out by November. The salvage company proposes to enclose all openings in the ship with the use of nets. This would prevent loss of any property or bodies that might still be inside. The digital photos and recordings done by the divers was used to create a 3D rendering of the sunken ferry.
The Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries, South Korea, announced the completion of the first preliminary inspection process. They also added that with almost no corrosion deposits found on the sunken ferry, it would ease one of the anticipated challenges they had envisaged with the salvage operations. The initial inspection also revealed that the cargo still on the vessel, had tilted to one side but had not piled up.
On 16 April 2014, “Sewol ferry” carrying 476 people, including 325 students from the high school in Ansan, sank off the south-western tip of the South Korean coast. In all, 304 passengers and crew members died in the disaster. Of the approximately 172 survivors, 75 were students. The ferry was en route from Incheon to Jeju.
In July 2015, China-based consortium, led by Shanghai Salvage Co., was chosen to perform the salvage operations to raise the Japanese built, South Korean 6,825-tonne “Sewol ferry” from under water. The salvage operation that has just begun this month (September) could take one and a half years to complete.
The families of those still missing had led a campaign for the ferry to be brought to the surface. It was due to their continued protests regarding the illegal overloading of the ferry causing it to sink; that led to the government to decide on salvaging the sunken vessel.