2 captains pinpoint blame-A A +A
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
CEBU CITY -- Both captains of the passenger ferry and cargo vessel that collided last Friday blamed each other for the accident, which left at least 56 dead and forced the declaration of a state of calamity in Cebu Province.
In his marine protest filed before the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina)-Central Visayas, Rolito Gilo of the Sulpicio Express Siete said he radioed the other vessel to prevent a collision, but received no answer.
Gilo also said his crew managed to rescue 181 passengers and 33 crew members of the other vessel, the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas.
But the master or ship captain of the Aquinas told a different story.
In his marine protest, Reynan Bermejo said it was the Sulpicio Express Siete’s fault because the latter failed to follow a traffic separation scheme and occupied the inbound lane, even if it was outbound.
Bermejo filed his protest last August 18, while Gilo filed his protest the day before that.
The Aquinas belongs to 2Go Shipping, while the Sulpicio cargo vessel belongs to the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp. (formerly Sulpicio Lines).
Bermejo told the Marina that at 8:34 p.m. last August 16, his vessel, the Aquinas, was heading for the Port of Cebu and near the Lauis Ledge.
It was about to enter the inbound lane of the traffic separation scheme, but met the outbound cargo vessel on the same lane.
Bermejo said he repeatedly told the Sulpicio vessel’s officers and crew that they were in the wrong lane, but “she did not alter course.”
“As I am restricted on my starboard side due to shallow waters and the outbound vessel (was) occupying inbound lane, I decided to alter course to hard port to avoid a collision,” Bermejo said.
To a person standing on a boat, facing forward, starboard is the side to the right.
Bermejo said that while the Aquinas tried to move to port, the other vessel “suddenly changed course to starboard and that caused the collision.”
“Our vessel was hit by the cargo vessel at starboard quarter and sank as a result,” Bermejo said.
But in his marine protest, Gilo said it was the Aquinas that encroached on the cargo vessel’s lane.
Gilo said that before leaving port, the Sulpicio Express Siete was inspected and cleared for departure by the Coast Guard.
The left Pier 5 in Cebu City at 8 p.m. last August 16 on their regular voyage bound for Davao City and General Santos City.
“My vessel was stable and in sound navigating condition; we have on board complete and current trading and operating certificates; my officers and crew members were complete and duly licensed and certificated; we had on board sufficient provisions and supplies for the voyage; my vessel was seaworthy in all respects, in both hull and machineries; our cargoes on board were properly stowed and well within allowable limits including the rolling cargoes, which were also lashed down and well secured,” read Gilo’s marine protest.
He said the Aquinas suddenly appeared on the Sulpicio Express Siete’s port or left side, as it approached Lawis Ledge lighthouse.
“I instructed to call the inbound vessel (St. Thomas Aquinas), stating a port to port passage in accordance with the Traffic Separation Scheme. There was no response,” Gilo reported.
“I instructed to call the sighted inbound vessel again, and still there was no response,” Gilo said.
Gilo added that a Trans-Asia vessel contacted them through VHF requesting to overtake on their starboard side.
He said it was the Aquinas that suddenly changed direction shortly before the collision.
He said he instructed all the crew to conduct search and rescue operations for the people in the water.
Arnie Santiago, the chief of the Marina Enforcement Office, was summoned back to Manila by Marina Administrator Maximo Mejia Jr. Malacañang wanted a briefing on the collision.
Marina-Central Visayas Director Nannete Villamor Dinopol and Legal Officer Jose Cabatingan said a hearing will be conducted soon to determine who was at fault.
In Cebu City, fewer people went to the 2Go Office in Pier 4 to look for their relatives’ names on the list posted outside the office. There were no new survivors found.
Aside from the list of survivors, there were at least 30 photos of missing persons posted on that wall, with the contact numbers of their families.
Others read the names on the list over and over again, hoping they misread the names and that their relatives are still alive.
Ana Marie Escalada, one of the survivors, said they were well accommodated during their stay in the 2Go Office.
She was supposed to go to Manila after she was employed as a domestic helper. She decided to continue her trip, but this time will go by plane. 2Go paid for her ticket, she said.
Escalada added that a social worker of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) conducted a stress debriefing for the survivors last Sunday.
On the other hand, the Cebu Port Police and the Waterfront Police Station will tighten their security inside the Cebu City Port, especially in Pier 4.
A bicycle of a man, who was looking for his missing relative’s name on the list of survivors, was stolen on Monday.
Wildemar Tiu, chief of the Waterfront Police Station, said they will deploy more policemen there, to guard against pickpockets or robbers.
“Most of the people who go there are from out of town, and they bring bags. I hope they’ll keep a close eye on their belongings,” he said.
Feliz Biogo used to make P150 per day as a porter, but work has been scarce since both fleets were suspended as part of the standard procedure after a sea accident.
He said he might try to find another job if the suspension continues.
To make himself useful since he still goes to Pier 4, he tries to help the people who are looking for their family members on the list, by guiding them on where to go.
“Mutabang lang usa ko karon kay mas nanginhanglan ang uban sa among tabang (I want to help because there are others who need help more than I do),” said Biogo. (EOB/JTR/Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 20, 2013.