2 missing, 21 rescued in cargo vessel collision

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/10 August) — Two crew members of a cargo vessel that originated from this city are still missing while 21 others have been rescued after it sank off Sarangani Bay Tuesday night following a collision with a foreign bulk carrier.

Cmdr. Roy Echeverria, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) station chief here, said cargo vessel M/V Bulk Carrier I sank late Tuesday after colliding with Liberian-flagged container ship HS Puccini at around 8 p.m. near the entry point of the Sarangani Bay.

He said the incident happened around 11 nautical miles off Tampuan point or near the coasts of Tinoto in Maasim town in Sarangani Province.

The Dumaguete-bound M/V Bulk Carrier I which left this city at 3:30 p.m. was carrying 15,730 bags or 246.10 metric tons (MT) of corn. The General Santos City-bound HS Puccini sailed from Davao City and was expected to dock here at 11 p.m.

“We’re still investigating what really caused the collision and how it happened. We’re currently focused on the search and rescue operations for the two missing crew members,” Echeverria told reporters.

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The PCG official said they first received a report about the incident when HS Puccini’s captain identified as Marco Krank made a distress call at around 8:20 p.m.

He said they immediately dispatched a team to the area to assist the search and rescue operations and conduct a maritime casualty investigation.

He said they also sent their medical team and marine environmental protection personnel to assist the ongoing operations in the area.

Echeverria said seven crew members of M/V Bulk Carrier I were initially reported missing but five of them were rescued near Maasim town Wednesday morning.

He said the survivors, who reportedly managed to swim towards the coast of Maasim, are now under the care of elements from the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion.

Niel Montanez, harbor operations officer of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) at the Makar Wharf here, said they only received a report about the incident at around 12:20 am or more than four hours after the collision.

“We don’t know yet what really caused the collision or how it happened but it was raining hard in the area that time,” he told MindaNews in a phone interview.

Aside from PCG personnel, he said a passing Solid Bay vessel and passenger ship Superferry also helped in the initial search and rescue operations for the 23 officers and crew members of the sunken M/V Bulk Carrier I.

Citing their records, Montanez said M/V Bulk Carrier I left the Makar Wharf here en route to Dumaguete City at around 3:30pm Tuesday. The cargo vessel, which is owned by Cebu City-based Pulsa Shipping Company, was carrying 15,730 bags or 246.10 metric tons (MT) of corn consigned by R.O. Ang Enterprises of Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat, he said.

Montanez said HS Puccini, which is operated by the American President Lines (APL), came from Davao City and was en route to this city when the incident happened.

He said the container carrier, which was carrying 16,162 MT of cargo, was supposed to arrive at the Makar Wharf at around 11pm Tuesday. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)