A team of divers began preliminary inspections of the sunken Sewol ferry in South Korea on Wednesday, marking the first on-site operations in the effort to raise the vessel since the award of the salvage contract earlier this month.
South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries says that about 12 divers from the China-led Shanghai Salvage consortium were in the water Wednesday afternoon to inspect the condition of the ship. The preliminary inspections are expected to take about 10 days and will help to further develop the salvage plan.
The South Korean government finalized its contract with the consortium led by state-run Shanghai Salvage for the salvage project. The consortium beat out six others competing for the tender with a bid of 85.1 billion won ($74 million) and a plan that involved lifting the sunken vessel in one piece.
So far the consortium has mobilized a barge on site that will serve as the on-site headquarters throughout the project and tugboat.
The preliminary salvage plan calls for the Sewol to be partially raised using airbags and the ships own buoyancy so that it can be moved onto a steel platform, which will then be lifted by cranes. The wreck lies at a depth of 44 meters.
The Sewol ferry sank April 19, 2015 near Jindo, South Korea with the loss of more than 300 lives, most of them high school students on a class trip. The bodies of nine victims have still not been recovered.