Coast Guard sets probe of ship collision off Sarangani

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/13 August) – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will convene a Special Board of Marine Inquiry (SBMI) next week to investigate the sinking of a cargo vessel off the Sarangani Bay last Tuesday night following a collision with a foreign container carrier.

Commodore Eduardo Gongona, commander of PCG’s Southeastern Mindanao District, said the SBMI will mainly look deeper into the circumstances behind the collision of the sunken domestic cargo vessel M/V Bulk Carrier 1 and the Liberian-flagged M/V HS Puccini near the coasts of Maasim town in Sarangani province at 7:45 p.m. last Tuesday.

Two crew members of M/V Bulk Carrier 1 were killed while 21 others were rescued following the collision, which happened seven nautical miles off the Tampuan Point in Maasim.

“We will summon all parties involved and gather testimonies and other available evidences from various witnesses so we can appropriately determine and evaluate what really happened and what caused the collision,” Gongona said.

The official said they will specifically determine whether the collision was accidental or not and the possible liability of any of the officers and crew members of the two vessels.

Gongona said he already ordered the detention of M/V HS Puccini pending the conduct of the SBMI investigation at the PCG headquarters in Davao City.

He earlier rejected a request for clearance from representatives of M/V HS Puccini to allow the Monrovia, Liberia-registered ship to leave the Makar Wharf here.

“We can’t just issue a clearance for the vessel after what happened here. It’s our responsibility to hold or detain the ship in favor of the government,” Gongona said.

M/V Bulk Carrier 1, which originated at the Makar Wharf here, was en route to Dumaguete City carrying 16,000 bags of corn grits from Sultan Kudarat province when the incident happened. The vessel is owned by Cebu City-based firm Polsa Shipping Lines.

M/V HS Puccini, which is operated by shipping firm American President Lines, came from Hong Kong and was initially expected to arrive here late Tuesday night after making a stop in Davao City.

M/V Bulk Carrier 1 skipper Capt. Pedrito Serencio initially blamed the incident on the officers and crewmen of M/V HS Puccini who allegedly miscalculated its nautical path.

But he admitted that the incident happened at the height of heavy rains that caused them to cruise at zero visibility.

Meantime, PCG officials here are currently confirming reports that M/V Bulk Carrier 1’s chief engineer Juanito Minoy, who was one of the two crewmen who were reported killed during the collision, had survived and is currently in Davao City.

Serencio, who was among the six M/V Bulk Carrier 1 crewmen who were confined at a private hospital here, told reporters Friday that he received a call from their manager informing him that Minoy was alive.

“Our manager in Cebu called me saying he was informed by Minoy’s wife confirming that he was alive and was now in Davao City,” he said in the vernacular.

“It’s confirmed because it’s my manager who called me,” Serencio added.

But Commander Roy Echeverria, PCG station chief here, said they could not yet confirm the matter as they have not yet seen nor talked to Minoy in person.

Minoy and apprentice engineer Edward Paler, who went missing following the collision, were earlier declared dead by the PCG after their surviving crewmates confirmed that they were trapped inside M/V Bulk Carrier 1’s engine room when it sank along the Sarangani Bay last Tuesday night. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)