The news to temporarily scrap the plan to raise the Phoenix was revealed today (Sept 24) by Wiwat Chitchertwong, who is currently the Acting Director of the Phuket Marine Office.
Mr Wiwat was installed as Acting Director of the Phuket Marine Office after the previous director was transferred in the wake of the Phoenix tour boat disaster on July 5 that killed 47 Chinese tourists, sending the Phoenix to the seabed 45 metres below the water’s surface some 1.5 nautical miles off Koh Hei (Coral Island),
At last report, on Friday (Sept 21), the salvage team were making the final preparations to raise the Phoenix. (See story here.)
However, Mr Wiwat confirmed to The Phuket News today, “The salvage of Phoenix boat has been suspended because the rope (sic) that was being used to pull the boat through the water broke while we were moving the boat.
“The rope broke when we were moving the boat about 400 meters from where it sank,” he added.
Mr Wiwat explained that the plan was to lift the Phoenix off the seabed and and drag it closer to shore while it was still fully submerged, and then float it to the surface.
However, the plan came apart when the tether broke while the salvage team were dragging the boat underwater, sometime between last Friday and today.
Mr Wiwat declined to answer when the incident occurred.
“I will not reveal or explain more details,” he said.
However, Mr Wiwat added, “Today I ordered for a new plan from the dive team to salvage the boat, then we will be able to start the process again.”
No deadline for presenting the new plan was revealed.
“I just ordered the dive team to make a new plan today. They will survey the boat again and tomorrow will start to continue with the project,” Mr Wiwat said.
“We will try our best. I believe our work will go well, because there is good weather at this time,” Mr Wiwat added.
Mr Wiwat, however, declined to identify which company had been hired to salvage the vessel.
Marine Department Director-General Jirut Wisanjit, while in Phuket on Aug 8 to announce that the Phoenix will be raised “this week”, explained at the time that the Marine Department on July 11 had ordered the owner of the Phoenix – 26-year-old Phuket resident Woralak Rerkchaikarn – to recover the boat from the bottom of the bay, giving her 20 days to complete the recovery.
“With the deadline passing on July 31 and no action taken to recover the Phoenix, the Marine Department will do it and order the boat owner to pay for the cost of the recovery,” Mr Jirut said.
“The cost is about B10 million, for which we have which hired a private company to carry out the salvage,” he added. (See story here.)