SEOUL — Two Chinese ships have arrived at the sinking site of the Sewol ferry to prepare for salvaging the ill-fated vessel, local officials said Sunday.
Early this month, South Korea signed a 85.1 billion-won (US$72.5 million) contract with a Chinese consortium for the recovery of the South Korean ferry that sank off the country’s southwest coast in April last year, killing more than 300 people.
A crane ship and a tugboat of the Shanghai Salvage team — the 11,706-ton Dali and the 450-ton Huahe — arrived near Jindo Island off South Korea’s southwestern tip, where the Sewol remains submerged, Jindo officials said.
With some 150 technicians and crewmen aboard, the ships will survey the area for the next two months starting Wednesday to collect information needed to plan the recovery. During that time, the staff will also try to eliminate any remaining oil and install a safety net around the ferry to prevent missing bodies from drifting away.
The 6,825-ton ferry Sewol sank off South Korea’s southwest coast on April 16, 2014, killing more than 300 passengers, mostly high school students on a school trip. Nine passengers remain unaccounted for, with the family members hoping to find them in the resurfacing process.
The recovery will begin in March 2016 and be finished by early June. The wreckage will be transported to South Korea’s southwestern port city of Mokpo through a floating dock, consortium officials said.