Documents shed light on 5 ships’ safety reviews

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Documents shed light on 5 ships’ safety reviews

Korea’s Coast Guard only sent one official to inspect five mega-size ferries, including the sunken Sewol, in a special six-hour inspection on Feb. 25, just 50 days before the disaster.

According to documents disclosed by Representative Hwang Ju-hong of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, the Coast Guard dispatched one official, identified as Sgt. Suh, to inspect the five ferries. He was accompanied by four other inspectors from maritime inspection agencies, including the Korean Register of Shipping.

Hwang obtained the papers yesterday from the Coast Guard.

The five inspectors were given five hours from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. to complete their safety evaluations on each of the five ships - the Sewol, the Seohaenuri, the Daebue Express Ferry, the Rainbow and the Flying Car Ferry. That would have given the five-member team an estimated one hour to scrutinize each vessel.

The team concluded that all five vessels passed its safety requirement check, which reviews crew members’ emergency training, safety equipment, how loads are secured on deck as well as the number and condition of life vests and lifeboats.

Yet, the Sewol accident demonstrates that the vessel met none of these safety requirements and only two of its 44 life boats were actually deployed during the accident. “For a mega-size ferry like the Sewol, it takes an hour just to walk through it,” Hwang said. “How does it make sense that they were able to properly inspect each of the five ferries in an hour?”

The revelation is expected to fuel more public backlash against the Coast Guard, which is already mired in controversy over its handling of the accident.

A 10-minute video of initial rescue efforts by the Coast Guard showed that not a single rescue worker made an effort to get inside the listing ferry and raised questions as to whether authorities made appropriate attempts to save the ferry’s passengers.

The public’s negative sentiment toward the Coast Guard was further aggravated when it was revealed that Park Sung-bae, the superintendent of the Jeju Coast Guard, played golf twice on April 27, and again on Sunday, at a time when the government has advised its workers to refrain from leisure activities.

The Jeju Coast Guard dismissed Park from his position yesterday.

BY LEE YOON-SEOK, KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]


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