Editorial: Marina’s ritual-A A +A
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
THIS has become a ritual for the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) after every accident like what happened last Friday when Sulpicio Express Siete and St. Thomas Aquinas collided with each other Friday night.
The ritual: suspend the operation of vessels identified with the erring firms, in this case Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp. (formerly Sulpicio lines Inc.) and 2GO Group Inc., conduct an inspection and then let go of the ships after the ritual.
In the meantime, sea travel is affected, especially where the firms involved are the maritime industry’s major players whose ships service major routes and ferry a good number of passengers and cargo.
When Sulpicio’s Princess of the Stars sank in 2008, the administration of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo responded to the widespread condemnation of the firm, which had been involved in some major maritime disasters in the country, by suspending its operation indefinitely.
Marina then went through the motions of re-inspecting and resurveying Sulpicio vessels, a process that dragged on. Weeks later, marine transport groups urged Arroyo to lift the suspension.
"The suspension of operations of all Sulpicio Lines Inc. passenger/cargo ferry vessels may have seemed to suppress the grief (due to tragedy) but consequently it is taking its toll on the industry," they said.
In the case of Philippine Span and 2GO, Marina has been relatively swift in the conduct of the inspection, lifting the suspension of the operation of three vessels each of Philippine Span and 2GO in just a couple of days. But those firms own a number of ships.
So like in the past, business leaders are worried that cargo traffic would be affected by the suspension.
Standard operating procedures are, well, standard. But perhaps Marina needs to review the ritual it is practicing after every maritime accident so its effect won’t end up becoming a problem in itself.
Besides, re-inspection presupposes that the previous inspection of the vessels was inadequate—a dig at Marina itself. So why not improve the inspection process and eradicate the corruption so a re-inspection won’t be necessary?
To paraphrase what the the marine transport operators said in the aftermath of the Princess of the Stars mishap, the sinking may have been tragic, but it didn’t have to end up sparking a national emergency.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 20, 2013.