Cebu-Ormoc travel takes hit after Supercat ferry grounded

Contributed Photo(Nagiel B. Bañacia)
Contributed Photo(Nagiel B. Bañacia)

THE Supercat Fast Ferry vessel that figured in a collision, injuring at least 25 passengers on Sunday, has been grounded, giving travelers on the Cebu-Ormoc route one less vessel to take to get to either city.

The mv St. Jhudiel cannot set sail yet while the investigation is still ongoing and until it is proven seaworthy again, Ensign Reynann Lagarre Jr., deputy commander of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)-Central Cebu Station, said Monday, May 22, 2023.

Supercat vessel mv St. Jhudiel, carrying 208 passengers and crew, was sailing from Ormoc City to Pier One, Cebu City on Sunday afternoon, May 21, 2023 when it collided with LCT Poseidon 23, a cargo ship bound for Ormoc City from Mandaue City.

The accident occurred near the first Cebu-Mactan bridge in the Mactan Channel, the PCG reported on Monday.

Passengers that SunStar Cebu spoke to Monday decried the ship crew’s lack of communication prior to and following the collision, while the PCG denied allegations that it responded late to the incident.

Supercat Fast Ferry Management apologized to the passengers that were harmed and to the families and friends who were worried following the incident.

“Our primary concern now is to ensure that all those who sustained injuries are properly cared for,” Supercat Management said in a statement posted on its social media platform on Monday.

The shipping firm added that it has coordinated with the concerned government agencies for the thorough investigation of the incident.

“Additional safety measures and appropriate actions shall be undertaken to avoid recurrence of this unfortunate incident,” the firm said.

In an advisory, the Philippine Ports Authority said two trips of Supercat plying Ormoc to Cebu, the 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. trips on May 22, were already canceled as no replacement vessel for the mv St. Jhudiel was available.

The vessel’s operation was canceled by SuperCat management until further notice.

Affected passengers with scheduled trips were advised to coordinate with the shipping firm concerned.

Steering casualty

In a social media post on Monday, the PCG reported that its initial investigation showed that the passenger vessel suffered a steering casualty and engine failure that caused the collision with the cargo vessel. The vessel lost its ability to steer off or maneuver the ship to avoid the collision.

The vessel had undergone repairs in the past week with its issue on the hydraulics systems.

PCG has sent out a team from the Coast Guard Marine Environmental Protection Force-Central Visayas to conduct an oil spill assessment, while it advised each vessel’s master to file a marine protest.

The PCG District Central Visayas has also directed the Maritime Safety Services Unit to conduct a marine casualty investigation.

The St. Jhudiel was tugged to Pier One, Cebu City while the LCT Poseidon 23 returned to its port of origin at Ouano Wharf, Mandaue City for damage assessment, the PCG said.

LCT Poseidon 23 was carrying 17 rolling cargoes with 20 drivers and cargo helpers on board the ship during the incident.

Lack of communication

The impact caused onboard furniture and fixtures to be tossed around, passengers said.

They lamented the vessel crew’s lack of communication with the passengers prior to the collision and after the incident.

“I had just returned to my seat from the bathroom. I’d looked down at my phone to message my friend in Australia, and suddenly we were all thrown forward and we’re airborne. I slammed into the chair in front of me, and everything went flying to the front of the vessel,” Jade de la Fuente, a foreign tourist from Australia who was aboard the vessel, told SunStar Cebu on Monday.

“My family and I were trying to lift the seats up off of children and others around us, and everyone quickly tried to lift the chairs to get the life jackets underneath. I remember looking to my right, and everyone was screaming as it looked like the ship was going to hit the side of the boat again at the back. The chairs were completely ripped out of the floor,” she added.

She said the crew did not give them an update or explanation on the incident until they were disembarked from the ship.

She asked for a refund from the shipping firm, adding that she was lucky to suffer only a few scratches and bruises.

“Only some crew that roam around to give water? Though first aid was given, nobody cared to watch over the wounded right after,” Jerry Gesulga, another passenger, said.

“Glad that the coast guard came [and] after we got offboard, no briefing and no one from Supercat cared to check on us,” he added.

On the other hand, lawyer Erwin Nuñez, one of the passengers who suffered injuries in the incident, told SunStar Cebu Monday that SuperCat management had promised to pay for their medical expenses.

Nuñez said he and other injured passengers were currently admitted in a hospital at the North Reclamation Area in Mandaue City.

He suffered bruises in his right knee and right elbow, and he fractured his left leg due to the incident.

“Eight of us were admitted last night, but there were many other passengers who were treated for their wounds,” he said.

“They (SuperCat) were the ones paying for our medical expenses, including the medicines,” Nuñez said.

Immediate response

The PCG-Cebu’s Lagare also denied allegations on their delayed response to the maritime incident.

One of the passengers on the day of the incident had said in an interview that Cebu is the second biggest city of the Philippines, but it has no rescue team that can quickly respond to any occurrence that requires immediate action.

The concerned passenger added that the Coast Guard must have a cutter boat that could serve a dual purpose—for patrol and for immediate medical response.

Lagare explained that on hearing the distress call, they immediately launched their aluminum boat and their special operations group also deployed rubber boats to the incident area. (WITH AML)


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