Salvage of South Korea's Sewol ferry: the facts

March 23, 2017
Salvage experts are working around the clock to lift the sunken Sewol ferry off the coast of South Korea, in a complex operation expected to cost around $90 million

South Korea's sunken Sewol ferry emerged from the waters on Thursday, nearly three years after it sank with the loss of more than 300 lives in one of the country's worst maritime disasters.

The painstaking job of lifting the 6,825-tonne ship lying on its side 44 metres (145 feet) below the surface has been described as a battle between man and nature.

The sea off the southwestern island of Jindo is known for its strong currents, which have been blamed for dozens of accidents and the deaths of two divers involved in the search and rescue on the Sewol.

Unfavourable conditions also played a role in a series of delays in the salvage operations, with an original deadline of July 2016 pushed back until now.

'Lifting beams'

The process began last year with divers installing a total of 33 "lifting beams" underneath the wreck—often by digging through the seabed below the .

The lifting beams were then linked on both ends by 66 steel cables to two giant barges floating on either side of the vessel, which since Wednesday have pulled up the cables in tandem.

The process is slow, not just because of the weight of the ship—estimated to have gone up to 8,500 tonnes with the silt piled up inside—but due to constant monitoring and adjustments needed to keep it level.

Semi-submersible

Once the top of the wreck is 13 metres above the waves, a semi-submersible waiting nearby will be positioned underneath to raise it the rest of the way, before the water and fuel are drained out of the ship.

Then the submersible will sail to Mokpo—a major port about 87 kilometres (54 miles) away.

Search for victims

The recovery of the hull is the prelude to the long, arduous job of searching the giant ferry for the bodies of nine victims still unaccounted for.

Because of their possible presence in the ferry, raising it intact—rather than cutting it into pieces—has been a key demand of the victims' families.

Much of the interior of the ship—which would be 22 metres wide if upright—have corroded after years in the water, adding to the difficulties.

$90 million

More than 400 people were working around the clock on the operation.

Seoul expects to spend a total of 102 billion won ($90 million) on the overall salvage.

Explore further: Explorers plan June mission to Andrea Doria shipwreck

Related Stories

Explorers plan June mission to Andrea Doria shipwreck

May 18, 2016

Nearly six decades after 46 people died when the Andrea Doria sank to the sea floor following a violent collision with another ocean liner south of Nantucket, Massachusetts, explorers are preparing to do what 16 people have ...

Oil leaks from submerged Philippine ferry

August 19, 2013

Philippine authorities said Sunday they were unable to stop fuel leaking from a ferry that sank, as oil spread to coastal villages, fishing grounds and mangroves more than five kilometres (three miles) away.

Italy cruise ship removal project halted

May 1, 2014

The mammoth project to refloat the doomed Costa Concordia cruise ship has been suspended until a decision is made over which port will scrap the wreck, Italian media said Wednesday.

Australian WWII wreck seen for first time in 66 years

January 10, 2010

An Australian hospital ship which was torpedoed in World War II and sank with the loss of 268 lives was seen for the first time in 66 years Sunday when a remote-control camera captured footage of the wreck.

El Faro one of many disasters that challenged investigators

November 3, 2015

The discovery of the missing freighter El Faro in more than 15,000-feet of water presents a challenge for U.S. Navy crews seeking to retrieve the ship's voyage data recorder, or "black box," and other evidence that could ...

Recommended for you

Galactic center visualization delivers star power

March 21, 2019

Want to take a trip to the center of the Milky Way? Check out a new immersive, ultra-high-definition visualization. This 360-movie offers an unparalleled opportunity to look around the center of the galaxy, from the vantage ...

Ultra-sharp images make old stars look absolutely marvelous

March 21, 2019

Using high-resolution adaptive optics imaging from the Gemini Observatory, astronomers have uncovered one of the oldest star clusters in the Milky Way Galaxy. The remarkably sharp image looks back into the early history of ...

When more women make decisions, the environment wins

March 21, 2019

When more women are involved in group decisions about land management, the group conserves more—particularly when offered financial incentives to do so, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder study published ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.