When ships collide-A A +A
Sunday, August 18, 2013
A COMMON reaction when two vessels collide at sea is amazement: how they can slam into each other when the sea, unlike roads, is wide and vast.
Friday night’s crash between passenger ferry St. Thomas Aquinas and cargo vessel Sulpicio Express Siete--with 32 dead, 58 missing, and 751 rescued--off Lawis Ledge in Talisay tells us close to home that sea collisions can happen even in fine weather.
A similar tragedy near Cebu occurred almost 42 years ago: on Dec. 24, 1971 at 10 p.m.
mv Holy James rammed mv Sweet Ride. Fourteen bodies were recovered and nine were missing in the accident two miles from Cebu City harbor.
Not as often as sinking of ships by typhoon (Princess of the Orient, 1998; and Princess of the Stars, 2008), collisions are no longer as infrequent as before. Sea lanes are more congested and vessels are speedier.
And just like in road accidents, human error may be the cause. Watch keepers aren’t being alert or the master is drunk. International Regulation for Preventing Collusions lists procedures but isn’t always followed.
A marine inquiry should determine which ship took the wrong lane or turn. In Friday’s collision, the cargo vessel reportedly hit the ferry. In the 1971 crash: the cargo vessel also did it.
Night-time tragedies often exact a heavier toll because of pitch darkness and cold sea. Vice Mayor Edgar Labella, then a councilor, survived 36 hours in the water after the Orient sinking.
More than 800 others, mostly women and children, weren’t as hardy and lucky as Edgar.
Half of them were eaten by sharks or had the ocean’s bed for their grave.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 19, 2013.