Wenceslao: Bad luck, lucky stars

IT WAS was one time when getting the feel was enough. When we were about to leave for home at around midnight Friday, I told my wife we can follow the Cebu South Coastal Road (CSCR) instead of the south highway. “Motan-aw ta?” she asked me, grasping the intent of my suggestion. Earlier that night, two ships had collided off the Talisay coast.

It turned out we were not the only ones playing usisero at that time. When we reached the portion of the coastal road near the Talisay “fish port” (in quotation marks because the facility isn’t functional yet), vehicles were parked on both sides of the road and a crowd had gathered at the edge of the reclaimed land.

There was nothing much to see but the darkened sea whose surface was visible only a few meters from the coast. The “fish port” was alive for once, with people and rescue vehicles visible from afar because of the lights set up for the search for survivors of the collision.

Farther away was a small image of a ship lighted like a Christmas tree. It was supposed to be the cargo ship Sulpicio Express Siete that refused to go down despite the collision, unlike M/V St. Thomas Aquinas of 2GO that sank, bringing with it some of the 870 passengers onboard. We could make out separate lights representing the vessels of the rescuers.

We didn’t see anything much on the sea even until we left some 30 minutes later. The movement was at the “fish port,” where usiseros were not allowed to enter, and the coastal road, where rescue vehicles’ sirens were wailing seemingly plaintively. But it was enough to give us a feel of what happened—with our imagination doing the rest, of course.

***

In December 2009, Sulpicio Lines Inc. became Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp., the move approved by majority of the firm’s board of directors and stock holders. The Securities and Exchange Commission approved the change of name on April 20, 2010.

The move was made only more than a year after MV Princess of the Stars sank in June 2008, killing more than 200 people with more than 500 others missing. The mishap was particularly devastating for the firm because Princess was the flagship of its fleet of passenger ships.

The change of name was like Sulpicio finally surrendered itself to luck, in this case bad luck, after its involvement in some of the major maritime disasters in the country with thousands of lives lost. And yet, as the blog RoverSpotter (roverspotter.wordpress.com) rightly noted, Sulpicio was also a “great shipping company” in its heydays.

“Forget the really long (new) name,” the blog noted. “It makes this once great shipping company sound like a low-profile, newbie cargo forwarding firm. If we take another look at this company’s history, we will know that its heydays were filled with Dons, Doñas and Princesses.”

But it seemed like the new name and new direction (more cargo ships, less passenger liners) did not usher in a genuinely new beginning for Sulpicio. It featured more of the same with the involvement of its cargo ship, Sulpicio Express Siete, in the collision with M/V St. Thomas Aquinas, a passenger ship, of 2GO Friday night off the coast of Talisay.

By the way, contrary to the claim by radio anchors in their coverage of the collision Friday night, 2GO is not owned by the Aboitizes. In 2010, Aboitiz Transport System sold its ships to Negros Navigation Corp. (Nenaco), whose controlling stake was in turn acquired by the China-Asean Investment Cooperation Fund owned by the Chinese government. M/V St. Thomas of Aquinas was reportedly the former Superferry 2.

The Aboitizes must have thanked their lucky stars they opted out before this mishap happened.

(khanwens@yahoo.com)
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