Fast craft management defends vessel

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Saturday, January 25, 2014


THE management of Weesam Express yesterday said their fast craft, which ran aground off Lauis Ledge last Thursday night, is ready for re-inspection and re-auditing by the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).

Weesam operations supervisor Felix Dumadaog said Weesam Express 7 has always been seaworthy and in good condition. He said what happened may be blamed on bad weather and strong water current.

Had it not run aground because of the shallow portion of the area near Lauis Ledge, Dumadaog said, the vessel would have reached Cebu City without a hitch because it could withstand much bigger waves when it plied by the Zamboanga-Malaysia route in the past.

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Weesam is owned by businessman Hadji Wahab Amel. The company, which is based in Zamboanga City, originally operated the Zamboanga-Malaysia, Zamboanga-Isabela (Basilan) and Iloilo-Bacolod routes.

It then expanded to include the Cebu-Tagbilaran-Cebu and Cebu-Ormoc-Cebu routes.

Marina investigation

When Weesam Express 7 was being pounded by big waves while sailing from Ormoc City to Cebu City, passengers panicked, prompting the crew to distribute lifejackets, Dumadaog said.

Weesam Express 7 was carrying 170 passengers, 14 crew and boat captain Cesar Arino.

The vessel ran aground around 6:40 p.m. last Jan. 23 and was towed to Pier 3 by tugboats the next day.

Marina will conduct an investigation on what happened last Thursday night.

Marina Administrator Maximo Mejia Jr. said he will come to Cebu so he can personally observe what’s happening to the shipping industry in the Visayas.

Mejia was alarmed by reports that vessels plying different routes in Visayas and Mindanao have been running aground while some have been experiencing engine trouble.

“I want to know the truth so I may know what we shall do next. We want to stop these incidents,” he said.

Mejia said they are also reviewing their policy to phase out vessels that are 20 years old or older.

He said they can’t be strict in implementing it since 70 percent of sea transport in the country is served by older vessels. Only when the industry can find an alternative will Marina tighten its grip on the rules, he said.

Marina 7 Director Nanette Villamor Dinopol has also issued an order suspending the operation of Weesan Express 7, the certificate of competency of the boat master and the crew’s seaman’s book pending investigation.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 26, 2014.

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