Monday, August 1, 2011

Trans Asia tragedy

Ship sinks off Iloilo; no casualties: PCG

ILOILO CITY -- A passenger ship sank off in Iloilo province after it was battered by strong waves yesterday even as all passengers and crew were safe, a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) official said.

All 162 passengers, including 35 crew members, were rescued before M/V Asia Malaysia went down, said Athelo L. Ybañez Coast Guard Western Visayas district commander.

“Maybe they were hit by pugada or sudden gust of winds and waves,” he said, adding there was no weather disturbance when the incident happened.

Mr. Ybañez said the ship, owned by Trans-Asia Shipping Lines, Inc. and plied the Iloilo-Cebu route, listed to its starboard side around 4 a.m. in the vicinity of Calabazas Island, Ajuy municipality.

The number of passengers and crew was based on the Master’s Oath of Safe Departure submitted to the PCG-Western Visayas. The vessel was steered by Capt. Romualdo Geraldizo.

Citing reports from Trans-Asia management, Mr. Ybañez said strong waves hit the ship.

“Apparently, the cargo lashings were untied causing the vessel to lose balance. The captain tried to regain control but it was too late. At around 6 a.m., the skipper ordered the ship to be abandoned after asking help from nearby vessels,” he said in a phone interview.

Rescue efforts were augmented by the crew of M/V Pilipinas Cebu of Cokaliong Shipping Lines, Inc., M/T Fil-Visayas, provincial Bantay Dagat (sea watch) motor boats and other fishing boats.

A total of 42 survivors on board M/V Pilipinas Cebu were brought to the Iloilo City domestic port while M/T Fil-Visayas ferried 92 other survivors to Bacolod City. The remaining 28 victims were brought by the Bantay Dagat team to barangay Culasi, also in Ajuy.

Enough lead time
“The crew had enough time to ask for help and evacuate the passengers,” Mr. Ybañez said.

PCG-Western Visayas also deployed two search and rescue ships -- BRP Corregidor and BRP Edsa 2 -- from Masbate island and a chopper to Ajuy to monitor signs of oil spill.

“Fuel from the ship’s tanks will not immediately leak from the engine but we are more concerned with used oil in the engine room. BRP Edsa 2 has marine pollution equipment which can be used to contain oil spill should it occur,” Mr. Ybañez said.

It was the second see incident for Trans-Asia, a Cebu-based shipping company.

Another company-owned vessel, M/V Asia South Korea, sank off Bantayan island in Cebu province on Dec. 23, 1999.

The incident incurred 54 casualties. -- Francis Allan L. Angelo

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