Policy changes arising from tragedy

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

ON JUNE 21, 2008, the mv Princess of the Stars sank about 1.5 kilometers (one nautical mile) from the shoreline of Barangay Taclobo in San Fernando, Romblon in the middle of Typhoon Frank.

Mv Princess of the Stars of Sulpicio Shipping Lines, which was bound for Cebu, was carrying 845 people (724 passengers and 121 crewmembers). Only 57 survived.

As a result of the tragedy, agencies mandated to regulate the maritime industry instituted several policy changes.


Maritime Industry Authority 7 Director Nanette Villamor Dinopol told Sun.Star Cebu that there are now stricter regulations on the movement of vessels during adverse weather conditions.

Vessels of 1,000 gross tons or below shall not sail, except to take shelter, when typhoon signal number is hoisted within its point of origin or route or point of destination.

Movement of vessels above 1,000 gross tons is left to the discretion and responsibility of the vessel’s owner and master when signal number one is hoisted within its point of origin or route or point of destination.
Insurance requirement

Dinopol also said all vessel owners and operators operating in the domestic trade are accountable for any and all liabilities from pollution and wreck removal.

Only ships with “protection and indemnity” coverage shall be allowed to operate in the domestic trade, she said.

She said tankers carrying persistent oil as cargo are required to be covered by insurance to answer for the liability for pollution damage.

The term “persistent,” Dinopol said, is used to describe oil, which, because of its chemical composition, is usually slow to dissipate naturally when spilled into the marine environment and is therefore likely to spread and require cleaning up, such as, but not limited to, crude oil, fuel oil, heavy diesel oil and lubricating oil.

The Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act (RA) 9295 also requires a P200,000-insurance coverage per passenger.
RA 9295 is also known as “An Act Promoting the Development of Philippine Domestic Shipping, Shipbuilding, Ship Repair and Ship Breaking, Ordaining Reforms in Government Policies toward Shipping in the Philippines and for other Purposes.”

Rigid safety inspection

Dinopol also said there is now an improved ship safety inspection.

There are rules governing the implementation of the Ship Safety Inspection System, which provides specific guidelines and procedures for ship safety inspection of Philippine-registered ships.

Also, all Philippine-registered ships are covered regardless of hull construction operating in the Philippine waters.

Dinopol said there is also an enhanced or updated National Safety Management to ensure compliance with the International Safety Management code.

This is to foster a culture of safety and environmental protection in domestic shipping operations, whereby affected companies and ships shall provide safe practices in ship operation and safe working environment; establish safeguards against all identified risks; and continuously improve safety management skills of personnel ashore and aboard ships, to include preparing for emergencies that are related both to safety and environmental protection.

On the other hand, weather bureau Pagasa Mactan Chief Al Quiblat said weather forecast services have improved since the sinking of mv Princess of the Stars.

During typhoon Frank, Quiblat said, Pagasa was using a satellite, which was always late and inaccurate.

Now, it has 11 weather surveillance Doppler radars installed throughout the country, including one in Mactan.

Accurate forecasts

“This is the reason why we had accurate weather reports at the height of super typhoon Yolanda last Nov. 8 and super typhoon Pablo in December 2012,” Quiblat said.

He said the agency has also set up an automatic weather station where personnel can analyze the temperature, pressure and humidity and report these to the Manila Central Office every 15 minutes.

Last Thursday, the victims’ families and survivors commemorated the tragedy at the Rizal Park through a mass.

Many were also in Manila yesterday to attend a meeting called by the Public Attorney’s Office at the Department of Justice to discuss the civil cases they filed against Sulpicio, now the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp.

They’re still waiting for the cases to be solved.

One of them is the family of Arman Barret, who died during the sinking.
His sister Rowena, in a phone interview, said they filed a P5-million suit against the firm. The amount was later lowered to P1 million after a mediation, she said.

Majority of the cases, or more than 50, are handled by the Cebu City Regional Trial Court Branch 10.

The hearings on the civil cases were halted by last October’s earthquake, which displaced the courts from the Palace of Justice in the Capitol compound.

“I can understand why there is a delay in the cases,” Rowena said.

She said her niece Arianna, Arman’s daughter who was two at the time of the accident, is now a grade 3 student.

“She still misses him a lot,” Rowena said.

In August 2008, the Board of Marine Inquiry found the vessel’s owner and the captain liable for the tragedy.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 22, 2014.

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