Thai-language news service ManagerOnline broke the news last night. (See report here.)
Unavailable for comment this morning, Acting Chief of the Phuket Marine Office Wiwat Chitchertwong confirmed the news to The Phuket News this afternoon (Nov 6).
“Spitz Tech Co Ltd, the company that was handling the Phoenix recovery operation, has already cancelled its agreement with the Phuket Marine Office,” Mr Wiwat said.
“A new company will start their work from November 7 onward,” he added.
Mr Wiwat declined to comment further.
The ongoing efforts to recover the Phoenix have been hampered by strong winds and waves during the southwest monsoon months since the disaster-struck boat sank off Koh Hei, southeast of Phuket, on July 5, killing 47 Chinese tourists.
Of note, one of the Spitz tech divers involved in the salvage, Niphat ‘Joch’ Kludnak, 37, died on Sept 29 after fainting at the back of the main salvage boat and falling into the water. (See story here.)
The official cause of death accepted by police investigators was given as a ‘lack of oxygen”. (See story here.)
Mr Niphat had been involved in the salvage mission since it began in August.
Spitz Tech was hired by the Marine Department to recover the Phoenix under a B10-million contract effective Aug 1 after the owner of the Phoenix – 26-year-old Phuket resident Woralak Rerkchaikarn – had failed to recover the boat from the bottom of the bay within the 20 days allocated.
Marine Department Director-General for the country, Jirut Wisanjit, while in Phuket on Aug 8 said he hoped to announce that the Phoenix will be raised that week.
However, efforts came undone when a tether being used to move the boat while it was still submerged broke, sending back to the seabed just 400 meters from where it originally sank.
Another recent attempt to move the boat – while still submerged – failed again on only eight days ago, when on Oct 30 another tether broke. (See story here.)
In the report by ManagerOnline late yesterday, Transport Minister Arkhom said, “The private company says it is unable to complete the salvage operation for the ‘Phoenix’ boat. They have informed the Department of Marine to cancel the salvage operation after they have tried their best.”
“From now on, police will be responsible for the salvage as the boat is important evidence to use in legal action against suspects,” he added.
“We are also strictly enforcing on marine safety measures. Also for beach management, we are also insisting jet-skis zones are operated at the highest safety level,” Mr Arkhom also noted, according to the report.