Last year, a ferry sank in the East China Sea, leading to the deaths of hundreds of passengers. The president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, has reportedly now agreed to preliminary plans to raise the vessel, the Sewol, which is 144 feet underwater. According to the New York Times, the nation's government believes it is "technically possible" to recover the Sewol, and the operation could take as long as 18 months, costing the equivalent of a maximum of $138 million.
Planning for this possible salvage mission has required officials to determine how to lift the boat without damaging it. The Times said that this would be an unprecedented undertaking, as the ship weighs 6,825 tons and far exceeds the scope of any previous salvage project for South Korea.
The plans involve hiring foreign salvage experts and using divers to prepare the sunken hull of the ship to be grabbed by a crane and gradually transferred to a submerged dock. From there, the Sewol could be brought above sea level. In a briefing quoted by Maritime Global News, Park In-yong of the Ministry for Public Safety and Security said that the position of the boat and its possible lack of stability pose some problems for retrieval.
"The primary risk is that the Sewol is a vessel built more than 20 years ago so there is corrosion in its body," he said. "And it is lying on its left, so as we try to raise it without righting it, there may be structural weakening."
Ships left underwater for extended periods of time are subject to possible damage and have to be handled delicately. Additionally, it is wise for all workers dispatched to help with salvage to be covered by commercial diving insurance to prevent financial loss in the case of operator liability.