Sea collision again!

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT - Atty. Ruphil Bañoc - The Freeman

Why does a collision between a cargo ship and a fast craft happen in broad daylight? Why did the two vessels fail to maneuver in the vast sea to evade each other?

These were the common questions of ordinary people when MV St. Jhudiel of SuperCat Ferry Corp. collided with the cargo vessel LCT Poseidon 23 last Sunday afternoon, May 21, at Mactan Channel in Cebu. The incident injured many passengers, and some were rushed to the nearest hospital upon arrival at Pier 1 of Cebu City.

At noon, the SuperCat departed from its port of origin, Ormoc City, carrying 197 passengers to Cebu City. At the same time, the cargo vessel LCT Poseidon was on its way to Ormoc City from Ouano Wharf. They collided near the old Mactan Mandaue Bridge at 2:47 in the afternoon.

According to some witnesses, the SuperCat was the one that him the cargo vessel, causing damage to its front starboard side area. The impact on the fast craft was strong that it dislodged some of the seats, causing injuries to many passengers.

In my interview with Atty. Erwin Nuñez, one of the injured passengers, he said that before the incident, the fast craft suddenly stopped in the Camotes Sea. When the accident happened, he asked the vessel’s crew, who said the collision was due to a defective steering wheel. Some passengers said that they already noticed something unusual in the engine sound of the SuperCat while in Ormoc.

The Philippine Coast Guard posted its initial investigation results on a Facebook account. Referring to the fast craft, it said, “While underway, it experienced Steering Casualty and Engine failure, causing it to collide with LCT Poseidon 23, which was on its way to Ormoc City from Mandaue City.” This is the answer to the abovementioned common questions.

In this case, the management of SuperCat has a lot of explaining why it decided to operate when the vessel is already defective. I presume the management knows the Transportation Law that requires extraordinary diligence as the requirement in this kind of business. Note that the lives of the passengers are at stake while floating in the deep blue sea.

Also, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) can be questioned as to why it gave the said vessel a seaworthiness certification. What happened to the routine inspection conducted by the said government agency?

How about the inspection made by the Philippine Coast Guard before the departure of the vessel from Ormoc? Did they not detect any issues with the steering wheel, the engine, etc., when they inspected the pilot house before giving the clearance to depart? Did they not notice the unusual engine sounds like what the passengers observed?

Meanwhile, during my interview in my Straight to the Point radio program aired over dyHP RMN Cebu with PCG-7 Deputy Commander Ensign Renan Lagare Jr., I wondered how he answered my questions. When I asked him the names of the ship captains involved in the collision, he never divulged their names. He just said that the captain of the fast craft was one of those being brought to the hospital.

Why was he reluctant to divulge the ship captains’ names? Why, in a road accident, can the vehicles’ drivers be easily obtained? Why is it hard to know about sea accidents? Are they buying time? Why is a government agency concealing such information? So what’s the credibility of the Special Board of Marine Inquiry? Just asking!

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