Military receives salvage ship sans two key systems

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Military receives salvage ship sans two key systems

Korea’s first locally built rescue and salvage ship was finally delivered to the Navy on Tuesday after controversy over faulty parts and corruption among government officials hindered the process for more than a year.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said the delivery was in accordance with a decision reached by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a meeting on Nov. 28, when they agreed to deliver the Tongyeong without two of the problematic components in question, the hull-mounted sonar (HMS) systems and its remotely operated underwater vehicles, commonly known as ROVs.

The DAPA said that the ship, excluding these two components, passed the most recent operational capability test and was delivered taking into consideration the deteriorating state of the Navy’s current rescue and salvage ship, the 3,000-ton Gwangyang, which is 46 years old and its retirement 16 years overdue.

Though the Tongyeong is without a sonar system and ROVs, the military determined that the issue will not hinder the ship’s recovery and towing operations. The Navy’s other rescue ship, the Pyeongtaek, is also antiquated, at 42 years old, raising concern about their safety and ability to perform their duties. The deployment of a replacement ship was urgent.

The 3,500-ton Tongyeong was completed in 2012 at a cost of 159 billion won ($143 million), but has been embroiled in controversy after it failed operation tests due to faulty parts, which impaired its deployment.

The Navy initially refused to accept the Tongyeong from its builder, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, complaining that the vessel’s equipment did not work properly. But Daewoo claimed DAPA provided it with substandard hull-mounted sonar systems and ROVs, which resulted in an investigation to crack down on corrupt officials who acquired the subpar parts from a supplier.

Daewoo’s 1,800-ton Jangbogo-II submarine was also delivered to the Navy on the same day.

Because the Navy did not accept the Tongyeong’s delivery until Tuesday, the ship was not deployed to help with rescue operations following the Sewol ferry disaster on April 16.

Still, some have expressed concerns that even though the ship is now in the hands of the Navy, it was delivered with only half its capabilities.

“After three months of thorough training, the ship will begin official operations next April,” a military official said. “Hopefully performing its role properly as a rescue ship will dispel the public concern and the disgrace from the corruption scandal.”

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]




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