Editorial: Sea transport reform

It is a very welcome move by Rep. Duke Frasco (Cebu, 5th District) to get to the bottom of the Consuelo Port incident where a Jomalia Shipping vessel listed to its side shortly after it docked on Aug. 31, 2019.

At least four passengers and 18 crew members were rescued by the Philippine Coast Guard Central Visayas.

The incident is a matter of “grave public interest,” said Frasco. Sea transport is very much a part of his constituents’ lives. It is unacceptable that the negligence of a few puts the lives of many at risk. “This could have easily been prevented had Jomalia learned its lesson from its lapses the first time around. If nothing is done to properly regulate these lapses, what if simba ko, sa sunod na malunod ilang barko naa nay mangamatay?” Frasco said.

It appeared that Jomalia Shipping’s record isn’t that clean. In December 2012, one of its boats also capsized due to its crew’s failure to unload cargo safely.

As to the August incident, Jomalia’s representatives admitted that their crew committed several lapses. Philippine Coast Guard Camotes Station Chief Lt. Michael Encina said all the factors point to Jomalia leaving out required safety procedures.

Mark Velasquez, Jomalia Shipping’s “Designated Person Ashore,” admitted their crew badly need retraining. He mentioned a number of lapses. The ports in Danao City and Consuelo do not have a weigh bridge and, therefore, shippers could not determine the actual weight of cargo and trucks that get into their boats. There is no way of knowing if they had exceeded the boat capacity.

An analysis of the recent incident revealed that the Jomalia boat exceeded its capacity of 85.2 tons when it loaded 110 tons of cargo.

Encina, on the other hand, said overloading wasn’t the main issue. The ship crew could have checked the plimsoll line, the reference mark on the ship’s hull that indicates the maximum depth to which the boat may be immersed safely.

This may have been something that the crew missed doing. The ship master and the chief mate, Velasquez said, only had two and a half months of experience with the Jomalia boat. They also did not have any experience handling the kind of vessel that listed.

This brings us to that part on the actual qualifications of boat crew plying domestic destinations.

Maritime law professor Ben Cabrido said ship masters in boats below 500 in gross tonnage may not be graduates of professional maritime courses. These masters, who only had informal navigation experience, are called “major patrons,” licensed via a special examination conducted by the Marine Industry Authority. There lies the big difference, Cabrido said, and this has been so out of necessity because professional mariners would rather work elsewhere for heftier pay.

There is much to be reviewed in our maritime laws, he said. The undermanned Marina, for one, had been spreading itself thinly, having been swamped with tasks that could have been shared with the PCG.

We hope Frasco’s interest on the matter of sea transport and its safety will go a long way in lobbying for major reforms.


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