A Sorry Maritime Safety Record Indeed In The Philippines

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Few question that currently Sulpicio Lines holds the most notoriety among local shipping companies. But as I have pointed out in a previous article [“The Blame Game and Other Musing”, 7/13/08] the combined WG&A is not too far behind Sulpicio, going by actual statistics.

Maybe due to the sheer number of incidents, a few of these gets left out. Or we may not be too meticulous in keeping records (the Maritime Industry Authority [MARINA] doesn’t even have its ship database in order). Or far-flung incidents sometimes does not catch the attention of the national media (except when casualties are simply too many).

Few would remember that in May 1980, the Sulpicio ship MV Dona Paulina struck bottom. The same thing happened to Don Victoriano I in April 1982. Both ships were declared total losses. These two incidents happened before the infamous Dona Paz and Dona Marilyn accidents in 1987 and 1988 (see Totie Mesia’s article, “RP’s Maritime Disasters: A Harvest of Shame and Blame”, 11/08/08). Aside from these, Sulpicio Lines’ ships were also involved in minor incidents like grounding, collision, ship fire and engine breakdowns that did not involve loss of life or the total loss of the ship.

Maybe to break its string of “bad luck” (the local euphemism for loser’s fate), Sulpicio Lines changed the name of their ships into Princesses. For a while it probably broke Sulpicio’s jinx but on December 1997, it lost MV Philippine Princess (a former flagship) to fire and subsequent sinking followed by the sinking of the MV Princess of the Orient (another former flagship) in September 1998. Finally, “bad luck” caught up with a reigning flagship, the MV Princess of the Stars, which capsized recently.

In the same period, some other obscure incidents happened to ships not connected to Sulpicio. In the early ’90s the following ships were lost:

1. MV Emerald which capsized according to MARINA records.

2. MV Ruby I of Alexis Shipping: a RO-RO that sunk just off the port of Calapan due to a holed bottom.

3. A SuperCat (a catamaran) of Aboitiz was lost due to another holed bottom between Mindoro and Batangas.

4 . MV Manila City of William Lines: a Manila-Cebu ship that caught fire while under drydock in Cebu City and was totally lost.

From the mid-’90s and 2000, the following ships were lost to fire:

1. MV Viva Antipolo 7 which caught fire in 1995 according to MARINA records. This ship was totally lost.

2. MV Gretchen which caught fire in 1996 according to MARINA records.

3. MV Kalibo Star of Maypalad Shipping which caught fire in 1997.

4. MV SuperFerry 7 of WG&A: caught fire on March 1997 just after unloading passengers in North Harbor, Manila and was lost.

5. MV Rosalia II of Lapu-lapu Shipping: a Cebu-Cataingan ferry that caught fire a few kilometers before Cataingan port, on August 1999. Three passengers were killed.

6. MV SuperFerry 6 of WG&A: caught fire on October 2000 just off Batangas and was lost. Its nearness to major sea lanes and ports assured the survival of all the passengers.

In this decade, the following steel ferries of minor shipping lines met major accidents. The details of these incidents are not complete:

1. MV Penafrancia which caught fire according to MARINA records.

2. MV Ruperto Jr. of Tamula Shipping: a Camiguin ferry which caught fire.

3. A Super Shuttle Ferry ship of Asian Marine Transport capsized.

4. MV Joy-Ruby of Atienza Shipping: sunk just off the port of Coron, Palawan.

5. MV Pulauan Ferry of George&Peter Lines: a Siquijor ferry that sunk off Cebu City.

Additionally, the following major incidents happened in the last 6 years:

1. MV Princess Camille of Shipshape Shipping: took in water while unloading passengers in Odiongan, Romblon and capsized.

2. MB Mae-Ann 5 of Lobrigo Shipping: overwhelmed by waves off Masbate City on May 12, 2005 while Typhoon Caloy was blowing. 27 people died.

3. MV Princess of the World of Sulpicio Lines: caught fire off Zamboanga del Norte coast on July 2005 and was totally burned.

4. MV Dona Ramona of Basilan Shipping: a bomb exploded while docked in Lamitan, Basilan, on August 8, 2005. Three died.

5. MV Butuan Bay of Gothong Shipping: its engine exploded just after leaving Cebu City on May 16, 2007. Three crewmen died.

6. MV Blue Water Princess of Blue Water Princess Shipping: bad weather and strong waves caused it to capsized off Bondoc Peninsula, Quezon on July 12, 2007 where 12 persons died.

7. MV Northern Samar of Bicolandia Shipping capsized in the height of a typhoon while docked in Tabaco port. Big waves moved the ship against a rock and the bottom was holed.

Additionally, an explosion and a fire happened on August 2002 while MV Tacloban Princess of Sulpicio Lines was drydocked. Two people were killed.

These 22 major incidents are separate from those mentioned in Totie Mesia’s article [“RP’s Maritime Disasters: A Harvest of Blame and Shame”, 11/08/08]. Proving that marine safety is indeed poor in this country.

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