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Ferry Disaster: Ship out of balance with excessive cargo

Updated: 2014-04-22 20:01:33 (KST)
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Let's now explore the latest findings about the structure and load of the vessel which many experts say could have led to the Sewol-ho's capsizing.
For more we connect with Arirang News' Song Ji-sun in the news center.
It seems that the ferry operator put its passenger safety in jeopardy by loading up on more lucrative commercial cargo.

A series of evidence shows that the operator did not abide by the rules needed to guarantee the ship's safety.
Take a look at the layout of the Sewol-ho ferry on the screen.
If you look at the structure of the ship, the lowest level houses the engine and the ballast tank, where water for balancing the vessel must be loaded before departure.
The company had expanded its cabin capacity to allow for more passengers and authorities approved the renovation under one condition, that the company increase the amount of water in the tank to secure its balance.
The Sewol-ho ferry can only load cargo of less than a thousand tons and must load balancing water of 2-thousand tons due to renovations which elevated the ship's center of gravity by half a meter.
But according to inspection data released by opposition lawmaker Kim Young-rok today
over 3,600 tons of cargo including 180 vehicles were on board the sunken ferry.
Whether the operator abided by that rule is now in question, since more water on board means more fuel is needed for the 68-hundred ton vessel.
Fuel, of course, costs money, and it's not a stretch to think the cash-strapped company may have cut corners to maximize its profits.
Another piece of evidence that supports this theory is that the ship sank upside down, suggesting there was more air in the bottom level of the vessel than water in the ballast tank.

So the operator may have traded the ships's balance with revenue from transporting cargo. What other evidence backs this theory?

It turns out that the revenue from shipping cargo was a cash cow for the company, which was suffering from operating losses in the slumping shipping industry.
According to an audit report of Cheonghaejin Marine Company, its cargo profits continued to rise -- eventually exceeding passenger shipping revenue.
That amounted to some 19-million U.S. dollars in 2013, up more than 70 percent from four years earlier.
On the other hand, revenue from transporting passengers had been dropping.
Tourism experts say it has to do with the recent rise in low-airfare operators that now fly from most major cities on the peninsula to Jeju island.
Cheonghaejin had been operating four lines, two of which had been traveling between Incheon and Jeju island.
All of the company's operations, however, have been suspended since the Sewol-ho ferry disaster last week.

Show us the area that rescuers are focusing their search right now

Take a look inside the cabin: where rescue teams are now focusing most of their efforts.
The third and fourth floors are where the most passengers were expected to be at the moment of the accident, between 8 and 9 a.m. last Wednesday morning, as it was breakfast time.
Divers are also searching the fourth floor of the ferry where the cabins for most of the Danwon High School students were located.
At this point, the vessel lies at an almost 90 degree angle from this floor plan after sinking upside down to touch the ground underwater.

What's the latest with the investigation into the operator?

Prosecutors have imposed travel bans on 30 additional officials related to the Cheonghaejin Marine Company.
The prosecution is also looking into whether the operator's management and the family which owns the company have evaded taxes or embezzled funds by making illegal overseas transactions.
In the meantime, the oceans ministry is currently looking into revoking the ferry operator's shipping business license. We will have more details in our later newscast.
Back to you.


Reporter : song@arirang.co.kr

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