Salvage of Sunken Ferry Proceeds Apace

  • By Yoon Ju-heon

    April 03, 2017 12:54

    Salvage workers who brought the raised ferry Sewol to port on Sunday retrieved some more animal bone and personal belongings of passengers that offer a poignant reminder of the April 2014 disaster that killed over 300 people.

    A passport and credit card found in the wreck were those of Lee Joon-seok, the captain who jumped ship in his underwear, leaving passengers and crew to their fate. Lee is serving a life sentence.

    Authorities are trying to find out who the other personal belongs belonged to.

    Workers are trying to reduce the weight of the ferry, which lies in a semi-submersible vessel at a port in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province, before moving it onto a dry dock on Thursday. Mud and seawater must be cleared before the ferry can be moved to land safely, according to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

    Module transporters are being prepared at a port in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province on Sunday.

    The ferry weighed 6,800 tons and carried 2,100 tons of documented cargo, but in fact it had been overloaded illegally and weighed about 10,000 tons at the time of disaster.

    Mud and seawater has seeped into the wreck that lay on the seabed for three years, and when it was hoisted to the surface on March 23, Shanghai Salvage measured its weight at 14,662 tons. Some 1,200 tons of seawater has already been drained from the wreck on the semi-submersible vessel.

    A small fleet of flat steel deck platform with wheels, known as a module transporters, will be used to carry the wreck to dry dock. Shanghai Salvage has rented 462 German-made module transporters from seven Korean shipyards, which will be divided into six rows to support the ferry's weight.

    Each transporter can support a maximum weight of about 35 tons, so 456 would be enough, but the weight is heavily biased on one side.

    "The 15,000-ton capacity is just a theoretical maximum. We presume that they can actually withstand about 13,000 tons," a ministry official said. "For safety's sake, we need to reduce the ferry's weight below 13,000 tons."

    Salvage workers will try to drain more seawater by drilling holes into the bottom of the ship and up to the cargo bay.

    But already the families of victims are protesting against what they see as an unconscionable tampering with evidence.

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