The South Korean Government has awarded a KRW85.1bn ($73m) contract to China’s state-run Shanghai Salvage -led consortium to raise the Sewol ferry that sank off the country’s southern coast last year.

The 146m-long ferry capsized on 16 April 2014, as it took a journey from Incheon in the north-west to the southern island of Jeju, killing more than 300 people.

Last month, Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries selected the consortium to raise the 6,825t ferry.

"Since the typhoon season usually comes around late July or August, we think it would be best to deploy all equipment and personnel before that period to give ourselves the best shot."

Korean Ministry official Yeon Yeong-jin was quoted by Associate Press as saying: "Since the typhoon season usually comes around late July or August, we think it would be best to deploy all equipment and personnel before that period to give ourselves the best shot."

Shanghai Salvage was involved in the lifting of the Eastern Star’s cruise ship that capsized in China’s Yangtze River in June.

The Sewol ferry currently lies 40m on the sea bed, preliminary research at the area is expected to start this month prior to the recovery works.

The salvage operation is expected to be completed by July next year.

Sewol was carrying 477 people at the time of the incident, including 338 students and teachers from the Danwon High School in Ansan, Seoul.

Later, a Korean court sentenced the captain of Sewol, Lee Joon-seok, to 36 years in prison after a court found him guilty of negligence.