Technical divers to inspect Cebu sunken ship

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Friday, January 3, 2014


MANILA (Updated) -- Technical divers are set to return to the Lawis Ledge off Talisay City, where the ill-fated M/V St. Thomas Aquinas sank in August 2013, to assess if it poses danger to navigation for vessels going to and leaving the port of Cebu City.

Coast Guard Central Visayas District Commodore William Melad said it was the vessel owner 2Go Travel that decided to send technical experts who would be accompanied by Coast Guard's Special Operations Group (CGSOG) divers.

Considered a dangerous area for ships, the 50-kilometer Lawis Ledge is a vital channel for passenger and cargo ships in Cebu.

Melad said the divers would return to the site almost five months after the 11,405-gross ton M/V St. Thomas Aquinas carrying 870 passengers collided with the 9,691 gross ton containerized cargo ship M/V Sulpicio Express-7 last August 16, 2013.

Seven hundred thirty-three people survived the collision, 116 were killed and 21 others remain missing.

"We agreed that they would be sending technical experts to survey the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas. It would be held during the first or second week of January. We would be sending PCG divers to have a more or less clear picture of the present situation of the sunken vessel," Melad said.

He added that recently, PCG had been preoccupied with lending assistance in the delivery of relief to areas affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda, and that they have not focused on the salvaging operations for the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas.

Melad said there is no "closure" in their operations since the vessel remains lying 50 meters under water.

"The PCG maintains the submerged vessel remains a potential danger and we have already informed them about this. While it sank some 50 meters deep, clear from the passing vessels, the container vans on board the ship are potential risk," Melad said.

He added that most of the container vans were filled with food items.

"Although the possibility may be remote, but there could be a reaction for instance if there is an earthquake (and jolt the vessel or container vans from its current state) and surface. Second, a daring diver might try to dive and cut parts of the ship and turn it into scrap metal. It (container vans) might be loosened and it could float and pose a danger (to passing ships)… So the position of the Coast Guard is that we have to remove it," Melad said.

He described the situation similar to a road accident wherein it is the responsibility of the car owner to tow the damaged vehicle.

After the scheduled dive, the Coast Guard official expects 2Go to tell the PCG its position.

"They might make their position on whether there is still a need to remove the ship or they might try to assess if the wreck removal is possible," Melad said. (Sunnex)

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