Apr 28, 2014
South Korean police have now arrested 15 of the 22 surviving crew members of the Sewol, the long-range ferry/cargo ship that rolled onto its side and sank while transporting 476 passengers to Jindo, a South Korean vacation island. Police and prosecutors initially pretended that the captain and crew were the main culprits responsible for the drowning of over 300 of the 476 passengers aboard, including at least 275 high school students and their teachers.
But now it’s clear that the company had created a disaster waiting to happen. It added sleeping cabins to upper decks for cruises to and from Jindo, increasing the weight of the upper decks by 239 tons, making the ship top-heavy and more susceptible to tilting when turning, particularly in rough seas or strong currents.
In addition, the ship carried cargo as well as passengers. And at the time the ship sank, it had been overloaded way beyond its limit – between three and four times its safe limit.
Lee Gwee Bok, the president of the Incheon Port Development Association (the home port of the Sewol) says the ship should never have been cleared for operation after its modification; because the ship register should have known the shipowner would never abide by safe cargo limits. But both the Korean Register of Shipping and the Korean Shipping Association are run by the shipping bosses. “The ship’s operator aims to make money and instinctively adds more weight,” says Lee.
The tragedy of the sinking of the Sewol was a man-made disaster years in the making by the bosses and their regulatory officials. And this is only one of many ships operating the same way!