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Cause of M/V SuperFerry 9 sinking to be known this week

MANILA, Philippines - The cause of the sinking of M/V SuperFerry 9 will be known within the week.

After ending its investigation last week, the Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) is set to submit within the week its report to Coast Guard commandant Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo.

Cmdr. Ramon Reblora, BMI spokesman, said they have been working overtime to submit the report to Tamayo on or before the Oct. 14 deadline.

At the moment they could not yet cite the exact cause of the sinking of the 7,628-gross ton vessel of Aboitiz Transport Systems Corp., he added.

Reblora said the eight-member board is still engaged in a close-door deliberation, appreciation of documents and evidence and writing of the report.

However, they might not put much weight on the angles of passenger overloading and weather as contributing factors to the capsizing of the passenger ship, he added.

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During the month-long hearing, the board considered problems in the cargo lashings, the distribution of the cargo and the heeling procedure or transferring of water to stabilize the ship as possible factors that might have contributed to the sinking.

The board interviewed a total of 66 people of which 45 were survivors based in Iloilo, General Santos City and Metro Manila.

Once the board has submitted the report to Tamayo, the parties concerned would have 30 days to file a motion for reconsideration before the report is elevated to the Department of Transportation and Communications.

“After the 30-day period the report would become final and executory,” according to the board’s law member.

The board’s investigation is limited to making recommendations to improve the safety standards and to prevent another accident, the law member added.

The BMI usually recommends administrative sanctions like cancellation of franchise of a shipping line to the Maritime Industry Authority or cancellation of the officers’ and crew’s licenses before the Professional Regulation Commission.

These are the highest forms of punishment that the board could suggest.

If there is sufficient ground to file criminal charges, the BMI would recommend that the Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police conduct a separate investigation.

Initial investigation showed that the SuperFerry 9 left General Santos City on Sept. 5 for a two-day voyage to Iloilo.

It was expected to arrive at the Iloilo port at around 1 p.m. of Sept. 6.

However, at around 3:30 a.m. of Sept. 6, the vessel tilted 25 degrees toward its starboard side.

Captain Jose Yap then reportedly declared abandon ship.

The vessel sank at 9:30 a.m. or six hours after the passengers and crew were ordered to abandon ship.

More than 900 people survived, 10 were reported dead and a few others remain missing.

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