City wants ships to stay away from Lauis Ledge-A A +A
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
CEBU City officials are working with the Philippine Coast Guard for the possible rerouting of vessels that pass through Lauis Ledge off Talisay City.
This is to make way for equipment that will help contain the oil spill in the area.
For the first time since the m/v Thomas Aquinas collided with m/v Sulpicio Express Siete Friday night, officials of Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp. (formerly Sulpicio Lines Inc.) showed up at the command center in Cebu City Hall yesterday to assure the public they are addressing the situation.
City officials called on the public’s help in manually containing the oil leak for now.
This, as the Incident Management Team (IMT) headed by Gov. Hilario Davide III stopped its search-and-rescue operation at 10:30 a.m. yesterday due to strong underwater current.
As of yesterday afternoon, the bulletin board of the incident command post at the Talisay City Fish Port showed 65 casualties, 57 missing and 750 survivors.
M/v St. Thomas Aquinas was carrying 870 passengers when it sank.
Three foreign companies surveyed the extent of the oil spill yesterday, said Davide.
But a foreign consultant of 2Go Shipping would not advise the use of indigenous materials like hair, feathers and fibers to absorb the oil spill. 2Go representative Lito Salvio said he will talk to the consultant.
Also yesterday, Philippine Span-Asia Carrier Corp. vice president for operations Grant Go denied the company stayed away from the recovery operations.
He said they are coordinating with 2Go and they don’t want to overlap with the passenger ship’s activity.
The official of the former Sulpicio Shipping company said this after Davide noted their absence in yesterday’s IMT meeting.
Asked about any assistance extended by Sulpicio to the victims and in the cleanup operation, Davide said, “To my knowledge wala (None).”
Davide’s press briefing was held in Talisay City Fish Port, while Go was in Mayor Rama’s press conference at City Hall.
Today, barbers will be deployed to City Hall to give free haircuts to those who want to donate their hair.
“Aside from human air, chicken feathers, corn husks and other indigenous materials, we are also asking the public to donate used stockings or leggings because these materials should be wrapped before we drop them into the sea. Otherwise, we might be creating another environmental hazard,” Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella said.
In a press briefing called by Mayor Michael Rama yesterday, officials of both shipping companies said they are working together in containing the spill and in the search-and-rescue operation.
Lito Salvio, assistant vice president for ship management of 2Go Shipping, said they wanted to install oil spill booms around the sunken ship but their consultants advised against it.
“It’s not that easy to put an oil spill boom at the site because it’s a restricted area. It’s a very narrow channel and there is a risk that another accident would happen if we set up the boom because these are large equipment. We wanted to install right away but it’s a high-traffic area, vessels come and go,” he said during a press conference at the City Hall.
Rama said they would coordinate with the Coast Guard if it is possible to reroute vessels that pass through Lauis Ledge to make way for the oil spill booms.
Their priority, Salvio said, is to retrieve the bodies from the vessel and plug the holes where the oil is leaking.
Foreign consultants and technical divers commissioned by 2Go were sent to the site yesterday to locate and plug the holes where the oil is coming from, and to plan the retrieval operations.
Salvio waited for Rama’s instructions on which of the two should be prioritized. The mayor said it should be done simultaneously, if possible.
M/v Thomas Aquinas had 20,000 liters of diesel fuel and 120,000 liters of bunker or crude fuel in its fuel tank when it sank 15 minutes after the collision. Its engines were also using 20,000 liters of lube oil when it was running.
During a command conference yesterday morning, Mayor Rama was told that oil had reached the vicinity of Shell Island across Barangay Ermita.
“I am worried because anytime, the oil will reach Cebu City and cause further damage… What’s taking so long to contain it? Who else should be helping?” he asked the representatives of different agencies involved in the operation.
When they all responded that Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp. should help, Rama
called officials of the company and told them to be in his office in two hours.
Officials of 2Go were also called.
In a press briefing after their closed-door meeting with the mayor, a Philippine Span Asia official assured the City of their assistance, as they have done on the night of the collision.
“From day one, we have been coordinating with 2Go, which is taking the lead. We’re also coordinating with the Coast Guard and we’re giving them oil dispersants, it’s like a solvent, to help contain it (oil spill),” said Grant Go, vice president for operations of Philippine Span Asia.
He said that on the night of the collision, Philippine Span Asia personnel and the crew of m/v Sulpicio Express rescued 103 passengers of m/v Thomas Aquinas.
As for the survivors, 2Go said they already sent home 464 passengers and paid for their airline tickets to Butuan, Manila and Surigao.
They also paid for the hospital bills of 54 passengers who were confined in different hospitals, as well as the burial expenses of those who perished.
2Go also assured that each fatality will get P200,00 in death insurance.
On the rescue and retrieval operations, Neil Sanchez, of the Provincial Disaster and Risk-Reduction Management Council, said new technical divers helped the Navy and Coast Guard last Monday.
Four Japanese technical divers joined the search of bodies in the vessel’s hull, said Davide.
Salvio said foreign oil spill experts are surveying the area. These are Malayan Towage, Nippon Salvage and International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited (ITOPF).
Davide ordered his Provincial Social Welfare officer to give food and canned goods to Cordova residents affected by the oil spill.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 21, 2013.