Vessel that damaged Kiamba reef maybe pulled out this week—Coast Guard

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/17 May)–The foreign cargo vessel carrying some 66,000 tons of coal that rammed a reef in Kiamba, Sarangani maybe pulled out this week, after which the environmental damage to be sought from its owner will be pegged, a Philippine Coast Guard official said on Tuesday.

Roy Echeverria, PCG Southeastern Mindanao acting deputy commander, said one of the two barges that would unload the coal from M/V Double Prosperity already arrived in Kiamba this morning from Cebu City.

The other barge is expected to arrive on Wednesday to further ease the load of the stranded Panama-registered vessel, he added.

Asked for an amount of the environmental damage, Echeverria said this would be known when the ill-fated vessel is removed from the reef, declining to validate earlier reports placing the initial damage cost at P30 million.

“May 19 would be the highest tide of the month and we hope the vessel could be taken out by that day from the reef, or maybe on May 20,” he told MindaNews.

Hopefully, unloading the coal supplies from the stranded ship will help in floating it along with the high tide, Echeverria added.

The 39,000 gross tonnage vessel, which measures 225 meters long and 32 meters wide, ran aground into Bakud Reef last May 8. Bakud Reef is one of Sarangani Bay’s 11 marine protected areas.

The ill-fated ship was bound to India from Australia, with the accident happening just as Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel “Pacman” Pacquiao was fighting American Shane Mosley, which the former won convincingly.

In an earlier investigation report, the PCG cited three possible causes: the officer failed to properly maneuver, the master failed to provide navigational watch due to alcohol impairment, and the ship was on auto pilot and not one was manning the wheel.

Echeverria said the ill-fated vessel’s crew, mostly Filipinos, remained in the ship and would not be allowed to leave until things will be sorted out.

Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene A. Dominguez, who could not be reached for updates on Tuesday, earlier said the vessel owner should be made to pay for the damage the accident caused to Bakud Reef.

M/V Double Prosperity is owned by Tanagra Shipping, S.A.

Dominguez said they have requested marine biology experts from University of the Philippines to determine the extent of damage on the reef and coral life caused by the grounding of the ship.

The latest accident at Bakud Reef, which is about 7 kilometers from the shore, was the second after M/T Golden Alkane that also ran aground, in July 2009.

Dominguez admitted they committed a blunder when they did not pursue damage claims against the vessel owner, adding this time “we don’t want to make the same mistake again.” (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)