SBMI recommends CPA to implement requirement for vessels-A A +A
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
THE Special Board of Marine Inquiry (SBMI) will recommend that the Cebu Port Authority (CPA) strictly implement the requirement for vessels leaving and entering the Cebu Channel to hire harbor pilots to avoid accidents similar to the collision of mv St. Thomas Aquinas and mv Sulpicio Express Siete.
This, as representatives of the office of Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona II attended the fifth day of the SBMI hearing yesterday in preparation for the coming Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation on the vessel collision off Talisay City.
Capt. Carlos Moralde of Cebu Harbor Pilots Association told the SBMI in yesterday’s hearing on the Aug. 16 collision that vessels with at least 500 gross tonnage are
required to engage the services of harbor pilots when entering the Cebu Channel.
After hearing Moralde, SBMI chairman Commodore Gilbert Rueras told news reporters that he will recommend that CPA strictly impose its regulation on the use of harbor pilots.
Harbor pilots guide outgoing and incoming vessels so they stay on their lanes under the Vessel Traffic Lane scheme. They help maneuver ships while arriving or departing a port.
In cases where entry to a particular port is narrow, as in the case of Lauis Ledge, it is the harbor pilot who advises captains what route to take. They may also take over in navigating the vessel if the captain is unfamiliar with the way, according to www.marineinsight.com.
The Port of Cebu has only 10 harbor pilots to service all vessels with at least 500 gross tonnage.
CPA Deputy General Manager Yusoph Uckung said pilot service is required only for foreign vessels.
"For vessels regularly traveling to Cebu ports, (it is) an option … because they are already familiar with the area,” Uckung said. He added that requiring pilot service for local vessels and those that never had accidents is “redundant.”
Besides, he said, shipping companies would complain of unnecessary expenses if the pilot service is made mandatory even for ship captains who are familiar with the route.
Moralde told the SBMI that only a few vessels request for harbor pilots when entering or leaving Cebu Channel. They get at most four requests for harbor pilots a day, he added.
He said mv Sulpicio Express Siete did not request for a harbor pilot to guide it in exiting Cebu Channel from Pier 5 last Aug. 16.
The Aquinas, on the other hand, requested for one and informed the station it would be arriving at 7 p.m. when it called the station as early as noontime of Aug. 16. It also informed the station that it would be arriving at 7 p.m.
Moralde said they were later notified that Aquinas would be arriving at 9 p.m. instead. When the Aquinas was approaching Lauis Ledge, Moralde said he left Pier 1 for Lauis Ledge to board the Aquinas as its pilot. However, upon reaching Kawit Island on a small speed boat, he overheard on radio that the Aquinas collided with the Sulpicio cargo vessel.
Moralde did not proceed to Lauis Ledge and instead ordered two tugboats to conduct rescue operations.
Aside from Moralde, the SBMI also listened to the accounts of three other resource persons.
Like its questions to Moralde, the SBMI asked officers of the two vessels about their compliance with maritime procedures prior to, during and after the collision. It also listened to the account of a passenger of mv Trans Asia 9 who claimed that media reports on the mishap are contrary to what really happened.
Aquinas' chief security Jessie Duran admitted to the SBMI that he failed to
communicate with the ferry's captain on what to do immediately after collision because he was attending to passengers who panicked.
Duran said that upon learning of the collision, he informed other crew members, went to the crews' quarters to get life jackets then handed these to passengers.
Duran also said that because the power in the vessel had died, the public address system was no longer working. He said he directed passengers as to where they could safely abandon the ship upon the captain’s orders.
Duran said he was among the last persons to leave the ship. Shortly after he got into the sea, the ferry sank.
The SBMI admonished Sulpicio's second mate, Ramon Ledesma, for inconsistencies in his testimony about the standard procedure in using vessel equipment and for not implementing its passage plan when the collision happened.
Ledesma said he was still off-duty when the cargo vessel left Pier 5, but had to report to the master's station when the general alarm sounded off to indicate a collision.
MV Trans Asia 9 passenger Vic Irvin Conde also showed up at the inquiry to tell the SBMI that he was “bothered” by what he heard on the news.
Conde, who claims to be fascinated with ships, sent an e-mail to the Coast Guard to narrate what he saw. Attached to his e-mail was a digital sketch of the positions of the three vessels (Trans Asia, Aquinas and Sulpicio) when the collision happened.
Conde said Sulpicio sounded its horn when it saw Aquinas “engulf the (lane) of Sulpicio).”
“I thought it (Aquinas) was trying to avoid the lighthouse and miss the collision,” Conde said.
When asked whether he saw other lights from the vessels nearby after the collision, Conde said he just saw a dim light. “I think it was from Sulpicio,” he added.
The SBMI asked Conde to declare on record if he testified on his own volition as he was not summoned by the board.
Meanwhil, Rey Anthony David Jr., a consultant of Guingona, said Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III has filed a resolution to investigate the collision. The resolution has been referred to the Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Guingona.
The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) will start today its administrative probe on the collision. The SBMI will continue its fact-finding inquiry as well. (Rianne C. Tecson)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 28, 2013.