The Sewol ferry has been safely placed onto a semisubmersible that will transport the vessel to the Mokpo port.
The rusted ship, which was salvaged on Friday three years after it capsized, was successfully loaded onto the semisubmersible at 4:10 a.m. local time (1910 GMT Friday), said the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.
The ferry will be untied from the two barges that raised it from the water and tightly fixed to the semisubmersible ship in the next two or three days.
Semi-submersible ship the 'Dockwise White Marlin' (L) is positioned beneath the wreck of the Sewol ferry off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo on March 25, 2017./ CFP Photo
The whole procedure took longer than expected as it took time to change the direction of the three boats — the Sewol and two barges — in accordance with sea currents before moving toward the semisubmersible ship.
If the transport process goes smoothly, the ship could arrive at the Mokpo port by the end of this month, according to Yonhap.
Sewol sank in 2014, killing 304 people on board, mostly young students. People have been traveling from across the country to Jindo, the closest port to the accident site.
Yellow ribbons to victims of the Sewol ferry disaster displayed at harbor. /CFP Photo
Kim Bun-ja and her son drove about four hours from Sacheon City. “I came with the hope that they would find even one or two bodies of the nine people who have not been found. I feel so sad,” she said.
Politicians have called for a permanent shrine for the dead and missing.
Opposition parliamentarian Kim Jin-pyo expressed belief many more lives could have been saved if lessons had been learned from past disasters like 9/11.
The tragedy and its wake gripped South Korea and overshadowed the presidency of now-ousted Park Geun-hye, who remained silent at her residence for seven hours as the Sewol sank.
The priority now is to find the remains of the nine people who are still missing, but the search will not begin until the Sewol reaches Mokpo harbor.
A worker stands on the partially-submerged wreck of the Sewol ferry as it is lifted between two Chinese salvage vessels. /CFP photo
“While the work continues on the surface, divers have set up a perimeter fence on the seafloor around where the Sewol was resting to ensure no remains, or clues as to what caused the tragedy, are overlooked,” CGTN correspondent Jack Barton reported.