A China-based salvage company has initiated its underwater operation of recovering the Sewol ferry wreckage.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries commented that dozens of divers appointed from Shanghai Salvage consortium went diving into the sea at roughly 2 p.m. off Jindo, South Jeolla Province.

The operation took place 490 days after the day of the tragedy (April 16th, 2014), and 281 days after Korean authorities concluded their search and rescue operations due to the temperature of the water (November 11th, 2014).

The divers began the operation through a sea base which was constructed by Shanghai Salvage last week via the use of a tugboat, a barge and various other pieces of equipment. A total of 96 divers were brought by the consortium for the salvage operation. They are going to be studying and evaluating the ferry’s condition while keeping in mind the area’s strong water currents.

The results of the study, which will have a duration of 10 days, are going to be employed for clearing up every little detail regarding the subsequent salvage plan. The inspection site was visited by Minister Yoo Ki-june who voiced his words of encouragement towards the divers and checked the working conditions.

Shanghai Salvage has reported that the ferry is going to be lifted via the use of metal beams. It is going to be a historic mission due to the fact that there is no other salvage project having involved the lifting of a ferry with a weight of 6,700 tons without having cut the vessel into separate parts before that. Given all of the water inside of it, estimations are for the ferry to weigh approximately 8,500 tons.

Chinese Divers Evaluate Sunken Sewol Ferry’s Condition

The government made the decision of lifting the vessel as one whole structure because it does not want for any of the nine missing people’s bodies to drift away while conducting the salvage operation.

The appointed team is going to be pumping air into the ferry’s wreckage through special marine salvage airbags in order to float it up above the seabed. Then they are to install huge metal beams under the ferry. Cranes are to then lift the vessel via the beams at roughly 23 meters above the level of the seabed. The ferry will then be placed on a submerged platform that is to bring it up to the surface.

According to government officials, the project is to be completed by July of 2016, but due to various migrating factors like the weather conditions, it might potentially require additional time.

The consortium, which is led by China’s state-owned Shanghai Salvage signed the contract worth 85.1 billion won for recovering the ferry with Korea’s government early on this current month.

The victims’ families and citizens gathered together on the island holding placards wishing for the nine bodies’ safe recovery. A large number of family members were disappointed to say the least with the salvage operation’s rather slow development. The government announced the final salvage plan in April of this year, roughly a year following the incident.