Editorial: Waiting for the masters-A A +A
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
WHEN a road accident kills pedestrians or passengers, one of the first sights investigators will probably see is the driver at fault, as he or she surrenders at the nearest police station.
The surrender may be self-preservation. The driver who stays at the scene of a fatal accident will risk a beating or worse. But whatever motivates it, the surrender is the first step toward accountability.
Four days after their vessels collided in the sea lanes off Talisay City, the masters of the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas and the Sulpicio Express Siete remain free, seemingly insulated from the event’s consequences.
They blamed each other for the accident, according to both companies’ marine protests; they said the other vessel encroached on their lane and refused to alter its course until it was too late.
Investigators will now have to ferret out what conditions led to the disaster. Were the officers on bridge watch duty adequately trained? Were they well-rested? Was their equipment in working order?
On average, ship collisions occurred 19 times each year in various parts of the world, Lloyd’s Register reported in its World Fleet Statistics (2000-2010). It was far more common in those years for a ship to catch fire or to founder on a reef.
By government’s estimates, one in every three seafarers now working worldwide is a Filipino. So it is doubly painful to find out that, from 2001 to 2011, of the total losses the global shipping industry suffered, the Philippines accounted for 17 percent.
Non-seafarers—and that’s most of us, who don’t fully appreciate the challenges of operating a ship—find it difficult to see how two ships can collide. It’s the sea, not a congested city road; isn’t there enough room?
The ship masters’ silence does nothing to ease doubts about how consistently maritime rules are enforced or how effectively shipping companies are made to pay for and learn from their mistakes.
Yes, both masters and the companies they work for deserve a fair hearing. But they also owe the public an explanation for the accident, which has killed at least 64 and caused an oil spill that threatens the livelihoods of hundreds of others.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 21, 2013.