Main­land con­sor­tium will sal­vage South Korea ferry

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

South Korean of­fi­cials an­nounced Tues­day that a Chi­nese-led con­sor­tium had won the bid­ding to take on the mas­sive task of rais­ing the Se­wol ferry that sank with the loss of over 300 lives a year ago.

The 6,825-tonne pas­sen­ger ship sank off the coun­try’s south­west coast in April 2014. Most of the dead were chil­dren on a school trip.

Nine re­main un­ac­counted for in the ac­ci­dent, which deeply trau­ma­tized the na­tion, and the fam­i­lies of those still miss­ing had led a cam­paign for the ferry to be brought to the sur­face.

On Tues­day, the mar­itime min­istry for­mally named the con­sor­tium of China’s state-run Shang­hai Sal­vage and a South Korean firm as the fi­nal win­ner of the 85.1 bil­lion-won (US$73 mil­lion) sal­vage ten­der.

Of­fi­cials noted Shang­hai Sal­vage’s ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing the rais­ing of a cruise ship that sank in China’s Yangtze River with the loss of more than 400 lives in June.

The Se­wol lies 40 me­ters down on the sea bed and bring­ing it to the sur­face poses a sub­stan­tial tech­ni­cal chal­lenge.

Pre­lim­i­nary re­search at the area — no­to­ri­ous for poor un­der­wa­ter vis­i­bil­ity and strong cur­rents — will be­gin this month with a goal to fin­ish the sal­vage op­er­a­tion by July 2016.

“Our top pri­or­ity is sal­vaging the ship un­scathed and avoid­ing los­ing the bod­ies that are still un­ac­counted for,” the min­istry said in a state­ment.

The pro­ject will in­volve two gi­ant cranes of over 10,000 tonnes and 200 work­ers in­clud­ing about 100 divers, Shang­hai Sal­vage said.

The ac­ci­dent — one of the dead­li­est mar­itime ac­ci­dents to hit Asia’s fourth-largest econ­omy — plunged the en­tire coun­try into months of mourn­ing.

The over­loaded Se­wol was car­ry­ing 476 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 325 stu­dents from a high school in An­san, south of Seoul. Only 75 stu­dents sur­vived.

The ac­ci­dent — blamed on the ship’s illegal re­design and over­load­ing left unchecked by of­fi­cials — prompted public calls to over­haul lax safety stan­dards and tackle deep­rooted cor­rup­tion.

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