Vessel still stuck at Sarangani reef carries 66K tons of coal

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/9 May) – The Sarangani provincial government has allayed fears of an oil spill in the seas off Kiamba town following a maritime accident involving a foreign cargo ship, not a fuel tanker as earlier reported, that rammed on a reef on Sunday.

Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez said the cargo ship loaded with 65,900 metric tons of coal was still stuck at Bakud Reef as of noontime Monday.

“Initial investigation by the Coast Guard detachment in Kiamba revealed that human error caused the grounding [of the ship],” he told MindaNews.

The vessel, Dominguez said, sustained no major damage, adding there’s also no spillage of oil or the coal stocks to the sea.

Initial report from the Coast Guard station here on Sunday said the ship that rammed the reef at around 12 p.m. was a tanker vessel.

Dominguez said that M/V Double Prosperity, which was en route to India from Australia, was a Panama-registered cargo ship.

The governor could not say when the stranded vessel could be taken out from the reef, stressing the Philippine Coast Guard will make the call after making a thorough evaluation.

The logistical requirement is also being taken into account to secure the vessel and minimize the damage it may cause to the environment, Dominguez said.

John Heitz, an American expatriate who rushed to the reef Sunday after learning of the incident, also said the vessel was still stuck there as of press time Monday.

“They will have a hard time removing [the vessel] from the reef. [It] will need a tug [boat] and [a] high tide,” Heitz, a scuba diving enthusiast, said late Sunday afternoon.

Heitz, who came to the vessel on a pump boat, said that three-fourths of the boat got stuck on the reef, although the propeller was not jammed, adding that he also saw a small hole in the hull on the front left side of the vessel.

Bakud Reef, which locals also referred to as Tambilil, is about 7 kilometers from the shore. Divers describe Bakud Reef as the “only good reef” left in the area.

This was not the first time that a ship ran aground at Bakud Reef, according to sources, who said that an earlier incident was left unreported.

Heitz said that a portion of Bakud Reef is shallow, where a man can stand up and his head would still be above the sea surface. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)