Argentine Defense Minister Oscar Aguad admitted Saturday that the government lacks the means to refloat the ARA San Juan submarine, which was found this morning in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean a year after it disappeared, and said the next steps will be to gather all the information possible and consider what to do.
"I'd say no, we don't have the means. We don't have the undersea equipment. Nor do we have ROVs (remotely operated underwater vehicles) that can reach those depths. Nor do we have the equipment to haul up a ship of this kind," Aguad told a press conference in Buenos Aires.
For his part, navy Chief of Staff Jose Luis Villan said that refloating the sub, as the families of the crew members demand, has two limits: the legal one, since it is the judge investigating what happened to the ARA San Juan who must decide exactly when the wreck can be removed, and the other is the technical one.
"When we originally asked the company (Ocean Infinity, put in charge of the search two months ago), its people said that while they had some clues, they had neither the exact location nor the exact depth nor the exact mass of the ship that would have to be refloated," and asked for "prudence" since they only had preliminary information, Villan said.
Aguad said the next steps are to get all the documentation in the hands of the US company to study it and "see what to do," adding that the government wants to discover the truth and do the right thing, since everyone, but mostly the families "of the 44 heroes," need to know what happened.
For months a court has attempted to determine what really went wrong with the submarine, as did the navy and an investigative commission in Congress.
The navy, which confirmed that the place the sub imploded at some 500km (300 miles) off the coast in an area of undersea canyons about 900 meters (3,000 feet) deep, coincides with the area from which the commander of the ARA San Juan communicated with those onshore for the last time on Nov. 15, 2017.
"All the ships (at the beginning of the search in 2017) concentrated on this area since there was almost no doubt about the submarine's route because of its last contact with those onshore and because of the place an explosion was reported," Aguad said.
He said they were notified last Thursday night that the company had reviewed all the maps it had and found the point of interest.
"The company said it was ordered to return to the spot where a promising sighting was made," Aguad said, adding that it was last night at midnight when naval authorities confirmed that the image was the missing submarine.