South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) and Public Procurement Service have named a consortium led by China’s state-run Shanghai Salvage as the preferred bidder to hoist the capsized ferry Sewol.
A consortium led by China Yantai Salvage and Titan Salvage are second and third in line respectively should negotiations with Shanghai Salvage fall through.
Twenty-seven companies, organised into seven consortia, submitted bids to salvage the ferry, which capsized during a routine Incheon-Jeju trip on 16 April 2014, with a loss of 304 lives of the 476 on board. Nine bodies remain missing and families are pressing for the ferry to be hoisted from the Yellow Sea at the earliest opportunity.
The shortlisted salvage companies were chosen on the basis of their fees and technical expertise.
The MOF said on 15 July that Shanghai Salvage wanted KRW85.1 billion (USD74.5 million) for the job, while China Yantai Salvage and Titan Salvage sought KRW99 billion and KRW99.9 billion respectively.
Related news:Seoul grants compensation to 46 Sewol claimants
A consortium led by Smit Salvage also submitted a bid, only to be disqualified as it did not put down a sufficient deposit for the tender. Three other consortia were ruled out as they were found lacking in technical skills.
The ministry said Shanghai Salvage was also favoured as it had hoisted the ferry Eastern Star, which capsized during a cruise along the Yangtze River in stormy weather on 1 June.
However, the contract value could still be changed during negotiations, which will begin with Shanghai Salvage on 20 July.
The negotiations will centre on insurance, legal matters, auditing, salvage techniques, and expertise. Contract terms and technical content will be verified.
Salvage work on the Sewol is expected to start in September 2015 once a salvage company is appointed. The ferry lies 40 m on the seabed and hoisting it is a major technical challenge that could take one-and-a-half years.