Divers Struggle in Search for Ferry Survivors

Joseph Keefe
Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rescuers struggle with waves, murky waters; Captain faces charge of abandoning South Korean ferry. About 290 people still missing, many of them teenagers.

Rescuers struggled with strong waves and murky waters on Thursday as they searched for hundreds of people, most of them teenagers from the same school, still missing after a South Korean ferry capsized 36 hours ago.

Coastguard, navy and private divers scoured the site of the accident, about 20 km (12 miles) off the country's southwestern coast.

Earlier, rescue teams hammered on the hull of the upturned, mostly submerged vessel, hoping for a response from anyone trapped inside, but they heard nothing, local media reported.

The vessel, carrying 475 passengers and crew, capsized on Wednesday during a journey from the port of Incheon to the holiday island of Jeju.

Nine people have been found dead and 179 were rescued, according to the South Korean government, leaving 287 unaccounted for and possibly trapped in the vessel.

One parent, Park Yung-suk, told Reuters at the port of Jindo, where rescue efforts are centred, that she had seen the body of her teenage daughter's teacher brought ashore.

"If I could teach myself to dive, I would jump in the water and try to find my daughter," she said. Her daughter was one of 340 children and teachers from the Danwon High School in Ansan, a Seoul suburb, on board the vessel.

The captain of the ship, Lee Joon-seok, 69, faces a criminal investigation, coastguard officials said, amid unconfirmed reports that he was one of the first to jump to safety from the stricken vessel.

One official said authorities were investigating whether the captain had indeed abandoned the vessel early and one of the charges he faced was violating a law that governs the conduct of shipping crew.

Many survivors told local media that Lee was one of the first to be rescued, although none actually saw him leave the ship. The coastguard and the ferry operator declined comment.

Although the water at the site of the accident is relatively shallow at under 50 metres (165 feet), it is still dangerous for the 150 or so divers working flat out, experts said. Time was running out to find any survivors trapped inside, they said.

"The chances of finding people in there (alive) are not zero," said David Jardine-Smith, secretary of the International Maritime Rescue Federation, adding, however, that conditions were extremely difficult.

"There is a lot of water current and silt in the water which means visibility is very poor and the divers are basically feeling their way around."

The government said it was not giving up on the possibility of finding survivors, while the coastguard also turned its attention to what may have caused the disaster in calm seas.

"Today, we began looking into the cause of the submersion and sinking ... focusing on any questions about crew negligence, problems with cargo holding and structural defects of the vessel," senior coast guard official Kim Soo-hyun said.

There has been no official explanation for the sinking, although officials denied reports the ship, built in Japan 20 years ago, was sharply off its authorised route.

Although the wider area has rock hazards and shallow waters, they were not in the immediate vicinity of its usual path.

SAFETY DEFICIENCIES

The ferry was found to have three safety deficiencies in 2012, including one related to navigation, but passed subsequent safety checks in 2013 and 2014, according to international and Korean shipping records.

The ferry's capacity was increased to more than 900 people from 800 when it was imported from Japan in late 2012, shipping sources said, but the expansion passed all safety tests. The ship, its passengers and cargoes are all under two separate insurances, according to industry sources.

State broadcaster YTN quoted investigation officials as saying the ship was off its usual course and had been hit by a veering wind which caused containers stacked on deck to shift.

The vessel was listing heavily to one side on Wednesday as passengers wearing life jackets scrambled into the sea and waiting rescue boats.

It sank within about two hours and witnesses and media showed that two life rafts from the ship successfully inflated and launched. Earlier reports said just one had inflated.

The operator, Chonghaejin Marine Co Ltd, based in Incheon, came under sharp criticism after its officials, for the second day, avoided many questions posed about the conduct of the captain and crew.

The unlisted operator, which owns four other vessels, reported an operating loss of 785 million won ($756,000) last year.

A company called Web Solus is providing an underwater drone free of charge to examine the interior of the vessel where survivors could be located.

"Families and rescuers have been just looking at the surface of the sea. We have to move fast and at least see some of the vessel under the water," Ko Se-jin, the operator, told Reuters.

Among those on the ship were two Chinese citizens, according to Chinese media, one Russian and two Filipinos. The Philippines citizens were safe, according to Korean authorities, but the whereabouts of the others were not known.

Hope rests on whether passengers inside had been able to find air pockets, Jardine-Smith, the rescue expert, said. "It is not impossible that people have survived, but, tragically, it's very unlikely that many will have done."


By Narae Kim

Maritime Reporter August 2014 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Patrol Boats

Gladding-Hearn Delivers Third NYPD Boat

With more than a dozen patrol boats and a fireboat built by Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding, Duclos Corporation, operating in New York Harbor, the Somerset, Mass.,

Fourth National Security Cutter Delivered to USCG

The Coast Guard accepted delivery of the fourth National Security Cutter, Hamilton, in Pascagoula, Mississippi, Monday. Hamilton will be the first of two NSCs to be homeported in Charleston,

MN 100: Moose Boats, Inc.

274 Sears Point Road Petaluma, CA 94954 Telephone: 707 778 9828 E-mail: markstott@mooseboats.com Website: www.mooseboats.com CEO/President: Roger Fleck Number

Passenger Vessels

Haze and Reduced Visibility at Singapore Ports

Due to the presence of haze, the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore Port Marine in their Notice No.113 of 2014 dated 15 September 2014 have informed the

L-3 MSI to Equip Third Quantum Class Ship

L-3 Marine Systems International (L-3 MSI) announced today that it has been awarded a contract to provide a range of navigation, lighting and communication systems

Green Passenger Ferries from Faaborg Vaerft

The first full-electrical passenger ferry in composite is delivered to Ballerina AB in Stockholm, Sweden. Faaborg Vaerft A/S has delivered the first full-electrical passenger vessel,

Salvage

Update: SS Central America Salvage

Odyssey Marine Exploration completes current phase of SS Central America recovery; 15,500+ gold and silver coins, 45 gold bars recovered to date; 161,000-square meter,

T&T Salvage Refloats Containership

Damn the Torpedoes: T&T Salvage completes another successful OPA 90 response T&T Salvage and their strategic response partner, Cabras Marine, successfully refloated a 17,

USCG, Enbridge to Conduct Oil Spill Response Exercise

The Coast Guard 9th District, partner agencies, and Enbridge Energy Limited Partnership will conduct a full-scale oil spill response exercise in Indian River, Michigan, Wednesday.

Casualties

Lake Charles Tugboat Engine Room Fire Extinguished

The Coast Guard informs that along with the Black Bayou Fire Department it has responded to a tugboat on fire near Lake Charles, Louisiana. At approximately 1:15 p.

Washington Navy Yard Remembers Shooting One Year Later

It was a day no one who worked on the Washington Navy Yard will ever forget. Shortly after 8 a.m., on Sept. 16, 2013, Navy contractor Aaron Alexis entered the Naval

Maritime Reporter @ 75: The Daily Cartoon

Maritime Reporter & Engineering News was founded by John J. O'Malley (1905-1980) in 1939, and today ranks as the world's largest audited trade publication in the world serving the maritime industry,

Coast Guard

Lake Charles Tugboat Engine Room Fire Extinguished

The Coast Guard informs that along with the Black Bayou Fire Department it has responded to a tugboat on fire near Lake Charles, Louisiana. At approximately 1:15 p.

Maritime Academy Awarded DHS Grant for Arctic Training

Maine Maritime Academy receives $450,000 grant From U.S. Department of Homeland Security for ice navigation and maritime first responder courses for the Arctic Maine

Great Lakes Dry Cargo Residue Discharge Rule in Effect

The U.S. Coast Guard published a final rule to the Federal Register announcing that it has received approval from the Office of Management and Budget for an information

Maritime Safety

Lake Charles Tugboat Engine Room Fire Extinguished

The Coast Guard informs that along with the Black Bayou Fire Department it has responded to a tugboat on fire near Lake Charles, Louisiana. At approximately 1:15 p.

Maritime Academy Awarded DHS Grant for Arctic Training

Maine Maritime Academy receives $450,000 grant From U.S. Department of Homeland Security for ice navigation and maritime first responder courses for the Arctic Maine

Cargo Container Security Alliance Formed

SC-integrity, Inc. (LoJack SCI) and Contguard Ltd. announced a strategic alliance designed to provide their customers with security and real-time visibility of

Government Update

China, Sri Lanka to Launch FTA Talks

Chinese President Xi Jinping began a visit to Sri Lanka on Tuesday agreeing to open bilateral negotiations for a free trade pact as Beijing tightened its embrace

Maritime Academy Awarded DHS Grant for Arctic Training

Maine Maritime Academy receives $450,000 grant From U.S. Department of Homeland Security for ice navigation and maritime first responder courses for the Arctic Maine

Haze and Reduced Visibility at Singapore Ports

Due to the presence of haze, the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore Port Marine in their Notice No.113 of 2014 dated 15 September 2014 have informed the

Ferries

Green Passenger Ferries from Faaborg Vaerft

The first full-electrical passenger ferry in composite is delivered to Ballerina AB in Stockholm, Sweden. Faaborg Vaerft A/S has delivered the first full-electrical passenger vessel,

Video: Vessel Operators Remember 9/11 Heroism

On the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, America’s tugboat, towboat and barge industry pauses to remember the nearly 3,000 Americans who lost their lives,

Rolls-Royce Propulsion Systems for New Finnlines Ferries

Rolls-Royce says it has won a contract to install its efficient Promas Lite propulsion system on two vessels for ferry operator Finnlines. Promas Lite is an integrated

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Naval Architecture Navigation Offshore Oil Pod Propulsion Port Authority Salvage Ship Electronics Ship Simulators Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.0981 sec (10 req/sec)