South Korea has chosen a consortium led by China’s state-run Shanghai Salvage Co. as the preferred bidder to raise the Sewol passenger ferry which sank off Jindo Island on April 16, 2014, the country’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) said in a statement.
The consortium of Shanghai Salvage and an unnamed South Korean company
beat six other consortia competing for the contract.
The 6,825-tonne Sewol ferry sank off the southwest coast in April 2014. A total of 295 bodies were recovered, but nine remained unaccounted for when divers finally called off the dangerous search of the sunken vessel last November.
The Sewol lies 40 metres (130 feet) down on the sea bed and bringing it to the surface represents a substantial technical challenge.
The salvage operations are expected to start in September. Once started, the salvage is expected to last for about one year. MOF initially estimated the salvage costs to be around USD 139 million, however, Shanghai Salvage reportedly offered to raise the ferry for around USD 75 million.
MOF said that the selection process focused mostly on the bidders’ ability to safely raise the ferry without any further damages to the ship, which is believed to hold the bodies of the last nine passengers still unaccounted for.
China Yantai Salvage has been selected as a back-up should further negotiations with Shanghai Salvage fail, MOF said. Shanghai offered to lift the ferry for 85.1 billion won ($74 million) by using a frame built with metal beams on the sea floor instead of drilling holes into its side.
Twenty-seven companies organised into seven consortia, submitted bids to salvage the ferry.