RTN completes salvage operation of sunken HTMS Sukhothai

Photo courtesy of Royal Thai Navy

The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) concluded a 19-day-long salvage operation of the sunken HTMS Sukhothai, setting the stage for the creation of a memorial monument. The vessel had sunk in the Gulf of Thailand on December 19, 2022, resulting in the rescue of 76 out of the 105 people on board, while 24 individuals were found dead, leaving five still missing.

The salvage operation was undertaken by the US Navy’s Ocean Valor as part of their Cobra Gold joint military exercise, beginning on February 22. The operation was completed on Monday, after an operational time spanning 67 hours and 53 minutes, as reported by Admiral Chartchai Thongsa-art, who led the operation.

The frigate had sunk to a depth of 50 metres, at a distance of approximately 36.9 kilometres or 22 nautical miles from the shore in Bang Saphan district. Fortunately, no leakage of chemicals or oil was detected during the operation, according to Admiral Chartchai.

Throughout the operation, an Operation Centre was established at the Port Office, with Ocean Valor, seven RTN ships, and two helicopters involved. Divers were divided into two teams, one consisting of 14 divers, with equal representation from the RTN and US Navy, who used surface supply air equipment and had Ocean Valor as their base. The second team comprised 40 scuba divers from the RTN, operating from HTMS Mannai, said Admiral Chartchai.

“All divers, after conducting a total of 82 dives or 67 hours and 53 minutes underwater, were reported safe.”

The operation encompassed four key missions – locating the remains of the five missing crew members, investigating the ship’s mechanics, disarming weapons, and retrieving personal items. While 58 pieces of evidence were successfully recovered, the remains of the missing men were not found during the operation.

The recovered items were transferred to the Juk Samet Port of Sattahip Naval Base by the Ocean Valor on Tuesday for further investigation. It may take at least a month to retrieve the frigate’s CCTV footage, according to Admiral Chartchai.

A memorial monument has been planned for the Sattahip district of Chon Buri to honour those onboard the frigate during its sinking, reported Bangkok Post.

Robert F Godec, the US ambassador to Thailand, highlighted this operation as an example of the successful collaboration between the RTN and the US Navy.

Thailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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