Cebu News

Sulpicio spokesman says Coast Guard not to blame


Sulpicio Lines spokesperson, Atty. Nolie Espina, said that they could not blame the Coast Guard for allowing MV Princess of the Stars to leave port despite the storm because the shift of the typhoon’s direction was something that they could not have foreseen.

“If you look at the track of the typhoon, it might be on their side so maybe they believed that it was okay to travel, pero nikalit lang ug liko, it was something they could not foresee,” Espina said.

Espina said they have dispatched another vessel to the area that would ferry survivors back to Manila where the ill-fated MV Princess of Stars originated.

Espina said the company would give any other possible assistance it can to surviving passengers and to the families of those who may not survive after rescue efforts shall be exhausted.

Packing sustained winds of 140 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 170 kph when it made a landfall near the southern tip of Samar late Friday, typhoon Frank lashed at central Philippines Saturday and caused landslides and floods, knocked off power and blew away roofs. But the typhoon shifted course to the northeast yesterday and headed towards Manila at dawn.

As of 5pm yesterday, PAGASA said typhoon Frank was crossing Central Luzon and would be expected to exit over to the coast of Pangasinan in the evening.

At the time of the incident, the MV Princess of Stars was carrying 747 passengers and crew: 575 adults, 20 children, 31 infants and 121 officers and crew.

The ship left Pier 12 of the port of Manila around 8pm Friday for Cebu.  Hours later, it encountered engine trouble and ran aground off the vicinity of Sibuyan Island in Romblon  at the height of the typhoon afternoon on Saturday.

MV Princess of Stars has a passenger capacity of 1,992.

In an interview with The Freeman, Cajidiocan, Romblon town Vice Mayor Athena Malapitan said rescuers suspect that many passengers were trapped at the end of the vessel that dipped into the water.

Malapitan said they have prepared resources available to them to aid rescue efforts.

The tragedy with the MV Princess of Stars is certainly not the first that struck a vessel owned by Sulpicio Lines.

On September 19, 1998, the Princess of the Orient also suffered a similar fate when the tropical storm with international codename Vicki was beating the country with winds at 75 kilometers per hour.

Princess of the Orient with 454 people and heavy cargo on board was on its way to Cebu from Manila when it was battered by strong winds and rain.  That ship sank in less than an hour near Fortune Island, about 100 kilometers south of Manila.

The incident had baffled officials, saying the speed of sinking was highly unusual for a vessel with no apparent damage.

Two days later, 17 people were rescued, which brought the number of survivors to at least 311. At least 39 were confirmed dead.

The incident’s chief accident investigator, Arnie Santiago, had said that the heavy cargo on board the Princess of the Orient may have shifted in strong waves and caused the ship to tilt and then sink.

The vessel was carrying 15 vehicles and 66 containers of truck parts and other heavy materials that may not have been properly secured, Santiago had said. He further said some of the ship’s water seals may have also been damaged by an onboard fire that hit the ship in 1997.

Another vessel of Sulpicio Lines, the MV Dona Paz, also figured in what was considered as the “world’s worst peacetime shipping disaster” when it collided with a tanker, MT Vector, in 1987, which killed 4,341. The passenger ferry was en route from Catbalogan, Samar to Manila.

A year after, 250 more people died when another ship of Sulpicio Lines, the Doña Marilyn, sank at the height of typhoon with international codename Ruby. 

Records show that gross overcrowding, lack of safety gear, aging ships and badly trained crews have been the usual causes of shipping disasters in the country. — Joeberth M. Ocao/NLQ








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