Sinking of MV Sewol

Sinking of MV Sewol

MV Sewol capsized and sinking, as taken by the Korea Coast Guard on 16 April 2014
Native name 세월호 침몰 사고
Date 16 April 2014; 7 years ago (2014-04-16)
Time Around 9 a.m. to around 11:30 a.m. (KST)
Location 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) off Donggeochado,[1]South Jeolla, South Korea


Cause Center-of-gravity instability due to overloading of cargo, exacerbated by multiple right turns
Deaths 299 on-board[2]
2 rescue divers[3]
5 emergency workers[4]
Missing 5[2]
Property damage Cargo: ₩200 billion ($180 million)[5]
Inquest 3 separate investigations[6]
Suspects Captain and 14 crew members[7]
Charges Homicide (4 including the captain) [8]
Fleeing and abandoning ship (2) [9]
Negligence (9)[9]
Verdict Guilty
Convictions Life sentence (captain)
10 years (chief engineer)
18 months−12 years (13 other crew members)[10]
On board 476[11][12][13] (325 Danwon High School students)[14]
Survivors 172[15](171 after the subsequent suicide of the vice principal of Danwon High School)
Ferry disaster in South Korea

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The sinking of MVSewol (Korean: 세월호 침몰 사고; Hanja: 世越號沈沒事故),[16] also called the Sewol ferry disaster, occurred on the morning of 16 April 2014, when the ferryMV Sewol was en route from Incheon towards Jeju in South Korea.[17] The 6,825-ton vessel sent a distress signal from about 2.7 kilometres (1.7 mi) north of Byeongpungdo at 08:58 KST (23:58 UTC, 15 April 2014).[18] Out of 476 passengers and crew, 304 died in the disaster, including around 250 students from Danwon High School (Ansan City).[19][20][21] Of the approximately 172 survivors, more than half were rescued by fishing boats and other commercial vessels that arrived at the scene approximately forty minutes before the Korea Coast Guard (KCG).[22]

The sinking of Sewol resulted in widespread social and political reaction within South Korea. Many criticized the actions of the ferry’s captain and most of the crew.[23] Also criticized were the ferry’s operator, Chonghaejin Marine, and the regulators who oversaw its operations,[24] along with the administration of PresidentPark Geun-hye for her response to the disaster and attempts to downplay government culpability,[25] and the KCG for its poor handling of the disaster, and the perceived passivity of the rescue-boat crew on scene.[26] Outrage has also been expressed against the initial false reporting of the disaster by the government and South Korean media, who claimed everyone aboard had been rescued[27][28] and against the government for prioritizing public image over the lives of its citizens in refusing help from other countries and publicly downplaying the severity of the disaster.[29][30] This disaster has sparked both national and international debate about the South Korean “culture of obedience.”[31]

On 15 May 2014, the captain and three crew members were charged with murder, while the other eleven members of the crew were indicted for abandoning the ship.[32] An arrest warrant was also issued for Yoo Byung-eun, the owner of Chonghaejin Marine, but he could not be found despite a nationwide manhunt. On 22 July 2014, police revealed that they had established that a dead man found in a field 415 kilometres (258 mi) south of Seoul was Yoo.[19]

. . . Sinking of MV Sewol . . .

Sewol at a port in Incheon in March 2014, after modifications had been made

At the time of its purchase by Chonghaejin Marine on 8 October 2012, the ship that would come to be known as MV Sewol was eighteen years old and dilapidated.[33] It was originally named Ferry Naminoue and was operated from 1994 to 2012[34] as a transport ship for cargo and passengers by the Japanese company A-Line Ferry.[35]:9 According to A-Line Ferry, it did not experience any problems during its service in Japan.[36] After it was purchased, the vessel underwent modifications between 12 October 2012 and 12 February 2013, and was registered by Chonghaejin on 22 October 2012.[35]:9 The modifications were later found to have been based on an illegal redesign of the ship.[37]

After these modifications, which included the addition of two decks of passenger space and the expansion of the cargo space,[38]Sewol had her gross tonnage increased by 239 tons to 6,825 tons and her passenger capacity increased by 116 people for a total of 956 people including the crew.[35]:11 The modifications resulted in its center of gravity being moved upward by 0.51 m (1 ft 8 in)[35]:11 as well as a left-right imbalance.[39] After the modifications were completed, Sewol underwent investigations by the Korean Register of Shipping (KR) including an inclining test, and received the ship inspection certification and the certification for the prevention of sea pollution on 12 February 2013.[35]:15 During the process of approving the modifications, the KR reduced the maximum amount of cargo that could be carried by 1,450 tons to 987 tons, and increased the amount of ballast needed by 1,333 tons, to 1,703 tons.[40] The cargo limits were not known by the Korea Shipping Association, which has the responsibility to manage ferries, or the Korea Coast Guard (KCG), which were responsible for overseeing the Shipping Association.[41] The Board of Audit and Inspection later revealed that the KR’s licensing was based on falsified documents.[42] After the inspections, 37 tons of marble were further added to the gallery room at the bridge deck located on the back of the ship.[35]:17

Sewol began operations on 15 March 2013.[43] She made three round trips per week from Incheon to Jeju, each one-way voyage of 425 kilometres (264 mi) taking 13.5 hours to complete.[44] On 19 February 2014, she received an interim inspection and a periodic inspection from the Register.[35]:17 It had made the round trip a total of 241 times until the day of the incident.[43]

Route of Sewol during the last voyage from Incheon to Jeju, the capsizing location marked by the rectangular speech bubble[45]

On 15 April 2014, Sewol was scheduled to leave the port at Incheon at 6:30 p.m. KST.[46] A fog, which restricted visibility to less than 1 kilometre (0.62 mi), led the Incheon vessel traffic service (VTS) to issue a low visibility warning around 5:30 p.m., leading the Shipping Association to hold Sewols departure. The VTS retracted the warning around 8:35 p.m., and the Shipping Association removed the restriction on Sewols departure after checking the weather conditions with the operator of the Palmido lighthouse and consulting with the KCG.[35]:30 She departed around 9 p.m., and was the only ship to leave port that evening.[46]

When Sewol departed, she was carrying 443 passengers, 33 crew members, and a total of 2,142.7 tons of cargo, including 185 cars.[35]:31 Among the 443 passengers were 325 students on a field trip from Danwon High School.[47] Five passengers were of non-Korean nationality.[48] The ship was commanded by 69-year-old Captain Lee Joon-seok,[49] who had been brought in as a replacement for the regular captain.[50] Lee had over forty years of experience at sea and had traveled the route before.[51] He was hired on a one-year contract, with a monthly salary of ₩2.7 million (roughly US$2,500).[52] Lee worked with 33 crew members on the journey,[53] of which nineteen were irregular, part-time workers.[54]

Later investigations discovered problems concerning the state of Sewol at the time of departure. Despite her maximum allowance for 987 tons of cargo, Sewol was carrying 2,142.7 tons of cargo, which had been improperly secured.[35]:34[55] Only 761.2 tons of ballast were taken on board, the ballast tanks had not been properly maintained, and the previous voyage had been made without making further adjustments to the ballast during the journey.[35]:36–37 The regular captain of Sewol, Captain Shin, had warned Chonghaejin about the decrease in stability and attributed it to the removal of the side ramp, later claiming that the company threatened to fire him if he continued his objections. Shin’s warnings were also relayed through an official working for the Incheon Port Authority on 9 April 2014, which an official from Chonghaejin responded to by stating that he would deal with anyone making the claims.[56] Shin had also requested a repair for the malfunctioning steering gear on 1 April 2014, but this was not done.[57] The KR had noted in a stability test report dated 24 January 2014 that Sewol had become “too heavy and less stable after modifications were made”.[58] Chonghaejin’s budget for the safety training of the crew was US$2, which was used to buy a paper certificate.[59]

. . . Sinking of MV Sewol . . .

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. . . Sinking of MV Sewol . . .