South Korean authorities have begun pre-salvage work for the capsized ferry, Sewol.
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) said on 7 May that a taskforce comprising itself, the Ministry of Public Safety and Security (MPSS), Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST), the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN), the Public Procurement Service (PSS), and Korea Marine Environment Management Corporation (KOEM), will select a salvage company for what is expected to be an arduous task.
MOF’s press statement, written in Korean, said 16 officials from these organisations would form the taskforce.
With 10 of its officials being part of the taskforce, the MOF is the crux of the group.
The MPSS, the ROKN, the PSS, and KIOST are each represented by one official in the taskforce, while KOEM is deploying two officials.
Private-sector experts in the fields of shipbuilding, diving, maritime law, and insurance have also been consulted.
The MOF pledged that technical expertise is of utmost importance in selecting a suitable salvor.
Sewol capsized during a routine Incheon-Jeju trip on 16 April 2014, leaving 304 of 476 passengers and crew dead or missing. Nine bodies have yet to be recovered and their families are pressing the government to hoist the ferry at the earliest in hope of finding the corpses.
The ferry remains submerged in the Maenggol Channel in the Yellow Sea. The area is notorious for strong currents, presenting inherent risks to divers and salvage workers.
KIOST had conducted an underwater survey to assess the feasibility of hoisting the ferry and experts have concluded it would be possible to do so by drilling holes into the vessel before attaching it to barge-mounted cranes.