Chinese ship's distress call came 3 hours after boat collision — coast guard
Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel MV Vienna Wood collided with Philippine fishing boat FV Liberty 5 in the waters of Occidental Mindoro late Saturday. Search and rescue operations are still ongoing for the 14 missing Filipinos aboard the fishing boat.

Chinese ship's distress call came 3 hours after boat collision — coast guard

Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - June 30, 2020 - 1:54pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel that collided into a Philippine fishing boat in the coastal waters off Occidental Mindoro took three hours to report the incident to authorities.

Vice Adm. George Ursabia Jr., commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), said they received a distress call from the master MV Vienna Wood three hours after the incident through email.

Official report from the coast guard indicated that the collision happened at around 10:20 p.m. on June 27 while the command center of the PCG headquarters received the distress signal from the Chinese ship at around 1:46 a.m. on June 28.

In a virtual press briefing Tuesday, Ursubia said those three hours were "very crucial."

"Ang theory ko tumaob na 'yan so 'pag tumaob na 'yon habang maaga pa it was not taking so much water yet so hindi pa siya submerged pero capsized na siya so pwede pa sana mapasok 'yung ibang spaces niya para sana makuha natin 'yung mga na-trap doon if ever na mga missing crew," Ursabia told reporters.

(My theory is that the boat already turned over so while it was still early it was not taking so much water yet so it is not yet submerged but capsized so we could have still gone inside other spaces to rescue those trapped missing crew if ever.)

Search and rescue operations are still ongoing for the 12 fishermen and two passengers aboard fishing boat FV Liberty 5 in the waters of Occidental Mindoro. The PCG will evaluate on Thursday whether to continue with the operation.

Hong Kong-flagged ship did not send rescue boats

According to the account of MV Vienna Wood, they stopped and remained in the area after running into the FV Liberty 5.

The cargo ship, however, did not deploy any small boat to provide assistance to the Philippine fishing boat.

"They did not leave the area for reason that there were already a number of fishing vessels present in the area not to mention that their ship is very big that they have to maneuver it afar from the small vessel because of safety reason," Ursabia said.

Initial investigation from the PCG found that poor visibility and unfavorable sea conditions brought about by the southwest monsoon or "habagat" caused the collision.

The coast guard, however, is still considering other factors, such as the competence of the crew of the offending vessel. Investigation showed that a third mate, the most junior officer, was on the lookout when the maritime incident happened.

Ursabia said they would also have to check the cargo vessel's safety management system onboard, as well as if the Philippine vessel had complete navigational lights.

Cargo ship might face charges

The PCG chief noted that the offending vessel may face charges depending on the result of the investigation.

"We have to establish liabilities here because of such accident. It's possible that they will have criminal and civil liabilities also in this case but there has to be due process," Ursabia said.

Part of the investigation will also be to find out why MV Vienna Wood took three hours to send a distress call to authorities.

"We are looking at their responsiveness and promptness in sending such distress call... It's a question for the investigator to really establish why it took them three hours," the coast guard chief said.

Meanwhile, MV Vienna Wood has been detained since Monday and will not be allowed to leave yet. Hong Kong, as flag state, has been informed of the maritime incident.

"The flag state is well informed and flag state has already communicated with me in my capacity as commandant asking for initial report and we will be giving them initial report of the incident," Ursabia said.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: August 20, 2020 - 11:50am

The Philippine Coast Guard deploys two aerial assets for aerial search at the vicinity waters of Occidental Mindoro for 14 missing Filipinos.

The coast guard activates the mission to rescue 12 missing fishermen and two passengers aboard fishing vessel FV Liberty 5, which collided with Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship MV Vienna Wood early Sunday.

"MV Vienna Wood departed from Subic, Zambales going to Australia, while FV Liberty 5 departed from Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi going to Navotas Fish Port, Metro Manila when the maritime incident occurred," the PCG says.

August 20, 2020 - 11:50am

The families of the 12 fishermen and two other passengers of FV Liberty 5 who went missing after a collision with a Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel have agreed to an amicable settlement.

Philippine Coast Guard Commandant Adm. George Ursabia Jr. says the stakeholders of MV Vienna Wood and FV Liberty 5 will hold a formal settlement for the damages caused by the collision in the vicinity waters off Occidental Mindoro on June 27.

Family members of the 14 Filipinos who went missing will receive P1 million each from MV Vienna Wood. Irma Fishing and Trading Inc., the owner of FV Liberty 5, will receive a settlement amount of P40 million from the Chinese vessel to cover the cost of the distressed fishing vessel.

July 6, 2020 - 12:54pm

The Philippine Coast Guard files criminal charges against the shipping company, master and officers of Hong Kong-flagged MV Vienna Wood more than a week after its collision with Philippine fishing boat FV Liberty 5.

PCG spokesperson Armand Balilo said at least four individuals were charged with reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide and damage to property before an Occidental Mindoro court.

July 3, 2020 - 10:54am

Vice Admiral Georga Ursabia Jr., commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard, says they are now "building up pieces of evidence" to file criminal charges against Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel MV Vienna Wood.

"The investigation on the crew members of MV Vienna Wood is now finished. Our lawyers in Mindoro are now getting sworn statements from the fishermen who responded," Ursabia says in an interview with radio dzBB.

After three days, the coast guard has concluded its search and rescue operations and will be shifting to search and retrieval operations.

July 2, 2020 - 11:29am

The Philippine Coast Guard says the 14 missing fishermen and passengers of FV Liberty 5 might have been trapped under the capsized fishing boat.

The coast guard says he depth of the vicinity waters is approximately 2,000 meters while technical divers may only reach 100 meters depth. Search and rescue operations of BRP Boracay, BRP Malapascua and MCS 3009 are still ongoing.

"We are currently waiting for updates from our deployed teas. We are also coordinating with PCG Station - Batangas to provide more details," the coast guard says in a message to reporters.

June 30, 2020 - 3:23pm

Fisherfolk group Pamalakaya says the initial report of the Philippine Coast Guard is enough to sue Hong Kong-flagged MV Vienna Wood.

Initial report from the coast guard revealed that the Chinese cargo vessel did not make any effort to rescue the 12 fishermen and two passengers who went missing after the boat collision.

"The PCG report says it all; despite the ship being in compliant with the navigational standards and capable of rescuing the 14 fishing crews, they left the helpless fishers to uncertainties," Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap says.

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