A FAST CRAFT crashed into the docking area of Pier 1 in Cebu City early Tuesday morning in an accident that wounded 18 passengers and three crew members.
The M/V St. Sealthiel of the SuperCat line, owned by 2Go Shipping, was maneuvering toward its berth at 8:25 a.m. when it hit the dock.
Many passengers, who were already standing before the ferry could dock, were thrown by the impact. More than 130 people were on board the ferry, which came from Tagbilaran City.
Luz Torevillas, passage manager of SuperCat, said the wounded passengers and crew members were rushed to Chong Hua Hospital in Cebu City.
Most of them suffered slight injuries, and only four required confinement. The other passengers safely disembarked from the vessel.
Torevillas also said the shipping company will shoulder all the needed medical expenses.
Capt. Lyndon Landoy, assistant vice president for operations of SuperCat, said its technical team is investigating what caused the accident. He said that a mechanical problem during the maneuver kept the ferry from reaching its dock and so it went into a berthing space for roll-on, roll-off vessels instead.
“It happened so fast,” Landoy told reporters, but assured that the incident was isolated.
He said that fewer passengers would have suffered injuries if they had stayed in their seats until the vessel had safely docked.
He said they will submit all documents, such as a marine protest and incident report, to Coast Guard. He said the damage to the vessel’s hull was above the water line.
Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak, who helped in the operation after the accident, urged the management to strictly enforce their policy of keeping passengers seated until the vessel has docked.
“Maayo gani pangos lang ug bun-og sa lawas ang nahiaguman sa mga biktima (They were lucky the passengers suffered only scratches and bruises),” he said.
One of the passengers, 30-year-old Florabel Labor of Antequera, Bohol, also suggested that passengers stay in their seats until they are advised that it is already safe to get up.
Labor, a disaster risk reduction specialist of World Vision, recalled they were only a few meters away from Pier 1 when the vessel stopped. They had left Bohol at 6:30 a.m. and were scheduled to arrive at 8:30 a.m.
She heard the engine start again, then the vessel sped up until they crashed.
Many passengers fell. A table behind Labor toppled over.
Labor didn’t suffer any bruises because she was still sitting in her chair when the accident happened.
Despite what happened, Labor went on with her next trip to Tacloban City at 11 a.m. for a relief mission for survivors of super typhoon Yolanda.
Meanwhile, in Chong Hua Hospital, Sun.Star Cebu chanced upon Belen, 56, of Tagbilaran City who was discharged from the hospital, after being treated for some swelling on her forehead.
She came to Cebu to visit the Professional Regulation Commission and accompany her daughter.
Commander Rodolfo San Juan, chief of the Cebu Coast Guard Station, said that based on their initial investigation, the ferry suffered from a defective throttle system. He identified the skipper as Florito Norman Teves.
Administrator Maximo Mejia Jr. of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) said his agency, through Marina 7 under Director Nanette Dinopol, suspended the M/V St. Sealthiel’s operations as a matter of procedure.
Marina 7 Legal Officer Jose Cabatingan said that St. Shealthiel shall not be allowed to sail while its passenger ship safety certificate remains suspended.
General Manager Edmund of Cebu Port Authority (CPA), which supervises Pier 1, said that per their investigation, the damage to the berthing area was minimal.
Their engineering department, however, will still inspect it.
Marina 7 Specialist Mardon Martin, for his part, said that as of 3 p.m. yesterday, the fast craft was towed to the Colorado Shipyard for emergency repairs.
The vessel will be inspected again by Marina, before its suspension can be lifted.
The passengers wounded during the accident were identified as Sinfronando Maldo, Marilyn Gumanit, Julie Ann Cahulugan, Maria Trinidad Arafol, Voltaire Godinez, Remolador Silvano, Italian national Massimo Montisano, Alex Estardo, Resan Antigua, Concesa Belen, Sarah Jane Belen, Ritzel Albert Arambala, Jemima Depino, Jason Mondragon, Arman Lugod, Leonardo Dorimon and Gerriebee Libo-on.
The wounded crew members were Maria Estellita Macaiban, Jeszha Mae Rivera and Armando Cabaylo.
It was not the only accident involving a ship in Cebu this week.
A ship carrying liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) ran aground off Talisay City last Monday afternoon.
The M/V LPG Besugo came from Mandaue City and was supposed to sail toward Ozamis City when it ran aground near the Lauis Ledge off Barangay Tangke at 2:40 p.m. last Monday.
The ship had 10 crew members and eight officers, led by Captain Franklin Pisara. The vessel was registered to the Narra Crewing and Ship Management Corp. based in Manila.
Commander San Juan said that the ship left Mandaue City at 8 a.m. last Monday. As its crew waited for approval to disembark from the PCG, the ship docked temporarily at Kawit Point.
It later ran aground just a few meters away from the Talisay City Fish Port.
(It’s the same area where the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas sank, resulting in the deaths of 116 people, last August 2013, after it collided with a cargo vessel owned by the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp.)
After an initial investigation, the Coast Guard said they found no trace of a leak from the boat.
As of 2 p.m. yesterday, the vessel was allowed to continue its trip at high tide.