Sewol Salvage Pushed Back Due to Complications
The raising of the sunken ferry Sewol has been pushed back for one month following damage to the bow of the wreck during a preliminary lifting operation.
KBS Radio reported that during the first lifting evolution, several underwater lifting wires cut into the bow of the wreck due to rough conditions at the surface (she was being lifted by a floating crane, which was subject to wave action). "The operations will resume around June 24 when the currents slow," said the Maritime Ministry in a statement.
"We are changing our plan to deter further damage," said Kim Hyun-tae, a senior official, speaking at a press briefing. He described the salvage as a "work against nature, as it is being staged in an area known for its strong currents."
The wreck is to be lifted whole in order to maximize chances of recovering the remains of nine individuals still missing in the 2014 disaster. The tragedy prompted widespread public outcry, and the families of the victims are still pressing for action – including first and foremost the recovery of the vessel intact. The attempted whole-ship recovery in over 120 feet of turbulent water may be unprecedented, said a naval architect involved with the salvage, who gave the operation an 80 percent chance of success. Total cost is expected to exceed $70 million.
Salvors will now revise their approach, which already entails several moves to place support members underneath the vessel to take its weight as it is lifted. Additional stiffeners will now be placed beneath the bow section in order to add strength.
While authorities said that the salvage would now proceed in August, observers suggested that foul seasonal weather could push the timeline back into September.