Board of Marine Inquiry to probe reef accident involving foreign ship

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/3 June) – The Philippine Coast Guard will constitute a Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) to look into the accident involving a foreign cargo ship that remains stranded at a protected reef in Kiamba, Sarangani, an official said on Friday.

Atty. Arnel Zapatos, Sarangani provincial legal officer, said the board will convene on Monday to investigate the grounding of MV Double Prosperity, which ploughed Bakud Reef on May 8.

“We will present our damage claims to the BMI. We believe there was negligence on the part of the vessel’s crew,” he said in a radio interview.

Zapatos said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources earlier pegged the damage to the reef at P42 million.

But the exact amount the provincial government would demand is still to be determined because the ship is still aground at the reef, he added.

Zapatos said that PCG officials are hoping to refloat the vessel tomorrow (Saturday), after which the boat will be tugged to Davao City pending the outcome of the investigation.

The PCG can hold the ship until the owners can pay all the liabilities, he said, adding that they are prepared to file a court case if the owners won’t agree to a settlement.

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

The 39,000 gross tonnage Panama-registered vessel, which measures 225 meters long and 32 meters wide, rammed into Bakud Reef while en route to India from Australia loaded with nearly 66,000 tons of coal.

In its initial 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.

Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje earlier placed the damage caused by the vessel at P42 million, but admitted the amount is a small compensation.

“We estimate that the damaged cost in Bakud Reef could run up to PhP42 million. But this amount is like giving a slap on the wrist on the ship’s owners as the value in marine services that was lost as a consequence of the accident is invaluable,” Paje said in a statement.

Paje pushed for the inclusion in the computation of the total penalty to be imposed on the erring ship the lost value of marine services that would remain non-existent for at least 20 years, the minimum period needed before it can regain its former condition. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)