Human error eyed in Cebu sea mishap-A A +A
Sunday, August 18, 2013
GOVERNMENT suspended yesterday the fleets of 2Go and the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp., while investigators try to find out what caused two of their vessels to collide last Friday night.
“Our initial finding on the cause of the sea mishap is human error,” said Arnie Santiago, chief of the Maritime Industry Authority’s (Marina) Enforcement Office.
Santiago and his team are expected in Cebu today to inspect the site of the accident off the shores of Talisay City.
“We want to know why the officers of both vessels failed to effectively communicate with each other and use their respective radars to know whether another vessel is crossing their path,” Santiago said.
Thirty-two persons were confirmed dead while at least 751 others survived the accident, which happened near the Lawis Ledge.
“Accidents have happened there in the past…but those vessels only ran aground,” Coast Guard Central Visayas District Commander William Melad said in a press conference.
He compared the strait, where the accident happened, to a narrow road where only a few vehicles can pass at the same time.
“The sea is wide, but there are shallow portions in it,” he explained.
A representative of the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp. (formerly Sulpicio Lines) said that the officers of the Sulpicio Express 7 radioed the M/V Thomas Aquinas and asked them not to cross the cargo vessel’s path.
They alleged they got no response.
But a representative of 2Go, which owns the Aquinas passenger ferry, said the officers radioed the Sulpicio Express to say they could not change course, because there were shallow portions in the area.
Transportation Secretary Antonio Abaya said yesterday afternoon that two investigations will be conducted.
One, by the Board of marine Inquiry of the Coast Guard, will determine what happened.
The other, by the Marina, will identify who should be held liable.
Abaya called called a joint press conference in Manila with Coast Guard Commandant Rodolfo Isorena and Marina Administrator Maximo Mejia Jr.
Mejia ordered an immediate inspection of all vessels operated by both companies.
Mejia said their initial check of the documents of the two companies showed no sign of problems in the vessels’ structural integrity. The Aquinas had been inspected last month.
The Marina also asked the operators of both vessels to explain what happened within 72 hours.
In their initial investigation, Melad said the passenger ship within 15 minutes after getting hit in its starboard quarter by the cargo vessel. (To a person aboard a ship, facing in the direction of its bow or front, starboard is to the right.)
“Parang tinuhog talaga (It was as if the passenger vessel was skewered),” he said. It sank some 110 feet below the surface, while the Sulpicio Express stayed afloat, its bow badly dented.
The M/V Saint Thomas Aquinas is 138 meters long and 22 meters wide. It has a gross tonnage of 11,405 and a maximum recorded speed of 17.3 knots. The Japan-made vessel was converted into a passenger ship in 1992.
The M/V Sulpicio Express 7, on the other hand, is a general cargo ship that was built in 1981. It is 146 meters long and 21 meters wide, with a maximum recorded speed of 5.8 knots.
Malacañang vowed yesterday to get to the bottom of the collision.
Apart from the relief assistance being extended by the 2Go Group, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government is also prepared to help the victims.
The Marina 7 was tasked to re-inspect the Sulpicio Express 7 for its seaworthiness.
Capt. Nestor Ponteres of Philippine Span Asia said the Sulpicio Express 7, which was built in Poland, was in the right path and going full speed when the Aquinas appeared and began to cross its path.
Ponteres said the officers of Sulpicio Express 7 communicated with the Aquinas, but received no response. He claimed that two vessels of Trans Asia Shipping Lines also communicated with the 2Go vessel, but also got no response.
“Sulpicio Express 7 was in the right and because our ship was at full speed, it was too late to maneuver,” Ponteres said.
Jordan Go, president and CEO of Philippine Span Asia, said they are helping in the search and rescue operations.
Sulpicio Tagud Jr., president and CEO of the 2Go Group, said they gave an initial assistance of P5,000 per passenger, pending the final report on the accident.
Contrary to the statement of Ponteres, Tagud said that according to the captain of the Aquinas, the Sulpicio cargo ship was taking the same lane as the passenger ship.
He said the two captains radioed each other, but the captain of the St. Thomas Aquinas saw that the cargo ship was not changing lanes.
At the last moment, he tried to swerve to the left, but the two ships still collided.
Marina 7 Legal Officer Jose Cabatingan said they will wait for the results of the Maritime Crisis Management Committee’s meeting in Manila.
The committee was convened yesterday. (With JK/SDR/Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 18, 2013.