The navy on Wednesday deployed a remotely controlled SeaFox mine disposal vehicle to take photos of the sunken corvette HTMS Sukhothai and help plan for its salvage, as the search continued for 23 missing members of the crew.
A source said navy commander-in-chief Adm Choengchai Chomchoengpaet ordered the Mine Squadron to use the SeaFox to collect information about the state of the ship, which sank during a storm in the Gulf of Thailand, off the coast of Bang Saphan district in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, on Sunday night.
The undersea drone is based in Samut Prakan province. It was taken aboard the mine hunter HTMS Bang Rachan on Wednesday and was expected to reach the area where the warship went down on Thursday morning.
The Seafox would map the exact position of HTMS Sukhothai on the seabed, and its condition. The data would be used to plan its salvage. (continues below)
A Seafox remotely operated expendable mine disposal vehicle. (Photo: Atlas Elektronik, the manufacturer.)
The Hydrographic Department reported that the size of the waves off Bang Saphan had moderated from level 3-4 to 2-3. The decision when to launch the drone would be made personnel at the scene, the source said.
The navy would ask the private sector to support the operation to refloat the ship, because the navy's own salvage equipment was outdated.
The House committee on military affairs will next week question Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Adm Choengchai about the sinking of the warship, according to Prasert Chanthararuangthong, Nakhon Ratchasima MP and secretary-general of the opposition Pheu Thai Party.
As an adviser to the House committee, Mr Prasert said he wondered how well the vessel had been maintained before the tragedy in the stormy sea on Sunday.
Navy spokesman Adm Pokkrong Monthatpalin said on Wednesday that of 105 people onboard the corvette when it went down 82 had been found. Six of them were found dead. Seventeen sailors and marines were admitted to hospital and 23 were still missing. The search was continuing.
He said previously that the salvage must be conducted quickly to limit marine pollution from the fuel oil and other chemicals aboard the ship.