CG seeks ‘closure’

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Saturday, January 4, 2014


TECHNICAL divers are set to return to where the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas sank in August 2013, to assess if it poses a danger to vessels going to or leaving the port of Cebu City.  

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

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

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

The collision last Aug. 16, 2013 killed 116 people while 733 others remain missing.

“We agreed that they would be sending technical experts to survey the St. Thomas Aquinas. It would be held during the first or second week of January. We will 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, the Coast Guard has been preoccupied with lending assistance in the delivery of relief to areas affected by super typhoon Yolanda and have not focused on the salvaging operations for the Aquinas.

Melad said there is “no closure” in their operations since the vessel remains lying 50 meters underwater.

“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 cargo containers on board the ship are potential risks,” 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…Second, a daring diver might try to dive and cut parts of the ship and turn it into scrap metal. These (cargo containers) might be loosened, 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 as similar to a road accident where 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)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 04, 2014.

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