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July 14, 2008

Sulpicio names companies hired for \’Princess of the Stars\’ salvage

Sulpicio names companies hired for ‘Princess of the Stars’ salvage

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Sulpicio Lines has named the companies hired to conduct salvage operations for MV Princess of the Stars, the Philippines ferry that sank on June 21 during Typhoon Fengshen, leaving over 800 passengers dead.

The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) had already set a deadline of this Tuesday to name the contractor who would recover the ship. Another important aspect is the separate recovery of chemicals on board, primarily the fuel and a 10-tonne shipment of the dangerous pesticide endosulfan by Del Monte.

The ship had also been carrying a number of other chemicals in smaller quantities, including metamedopus, carbofuran, niclosemide, and proptineb. All of the chemicals must be removed by order of the DOTC before the vessel is recovered. The chemical recovery is to be performed by Titan Salvage, an international firm owned by Florida’s Crowley Maritime Corporation and specialising in sunken and capsized ship recovery. Titan will co-operate with both Sulpicio and the DOTC, and expect the project to be completed within 60 days of the contract being signed.

Once the chemicals on board are removed then the ship itself can be recovered. Sulpicio has also named its contractor for this: Malayan Towage and Salvage Corporation (Salvtug). Salvtug has accepted the contract, but warned that its estimated operation cost is PHP2.25 billion to P4.5 billion, which is roughly equivalent to US$50 million to $100 million. Sulpicio had previously estimated that this exercise would cost P600 million.

The high cost is a potential problem as it is unclear who will pay. Sulpicio’s insurance does not cover salvage. Had Sulpicio been covered with protection and indemnity (P&I) insurance this would have been covered, but this is not required in the Philippines and so Sulpicio’s insurance agreement with Oriental Assurance Corporation only covered the hull, machinery and third-party injuries and damage.

It is likely that Sulpicio will pay for the recovery of the ferry, which has a gross weight of 23,824 tons, but as the ship poses a potential environmental hazard it has been suggested that the government should pay the costs initially to ensure work is done quickly, with Sulpicio to be charged later for this. However, for now it is unclear who will pay for the vessel’s recovery.



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July 7, 2008

Sulpicio Lines asks court to stop BMI investigation into \’Princess of the Stars\’ disaster

Sulpicio Lines asks court to stop BMI investigation into ‘Princess of the Stars’ disaster

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Monday, July 7, 2008

The Philippine shipping company Sulpicio Lines has asked a court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) from proceeding with its investigation into the loss of MV Princess of the Stars. The passenger ferry capsised and sank off Sibuyan island on June 21 during Typhoon Fengshen (known locally as Typhhon Frank) with hundreds of casualties.

Sulpicio told the Manila Regional Trial Court that both Republic Act 9295 and the Domestic Shipping Development Act of 2004 removed the BMI’s power to investigate maritime incidents and that the investigation the board launched on June 25 is “irregular, illegal, and null and void”. They say only the Maritime Industry Authority is allowed to investigate accidents at sea.

Sulpicio also described the investigation as an ‘inquisition’ that was biased against Sulpicio from the start. They say “prejudgment” has increased the “pervasive negative publicity” surrounding the line, since negative accusations are most often published in newspapers. The company says one comment the board made was “Your vessel is not stable!” “You have no business being a safety officer!”

As a result Sulpicio is seeking ₱650,000 from the BMI. This is split down as ₱500,000 in moral damages, ₱100,000 lawyer’s fees and ₱50,000 further costs.

The House Committee on Transportation also launched its own inquiry into the disaster today. The case for the TRO will be heard tomorrow.



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July 3, 2008

Sulpicio Lines pay PHP6.2 million for death of man in 1998 ferry disaster

Sulpicio Lines pay PHP6.2 million for death of man in 1998 ferry disaster

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sulpicio Lines, a ferry company in the Philippines, have been ordered to pay PH₱6.24 million over the death of a man on board MV Princess of the Orient, which sank in stormy weather off Batangas in 1998. Ernesto Unabia was one of seventy confirmed fatalities in the disaster, which left eighty more missing.

Unabia was a 37-year-old seaman who worked on international vessels, and earned a ₱120,000 salary. According to widow Verna Unabia, who filed the case with her three children, he was going to work on for thirteen more years and then retire. Unabia’s case is the first to be concluded, although most victims settled with Sulpicio without claims being filed.

Although Sulpicio lost their appeal several weeks ago, reporters have only today received access to documentation concerning the case.

Under Philippines law, employers are responsible for their employees actions. However, in Pestaño vs. Sumayang the Supreme court ruled that if it could be proved an employer had taken appropriate diligence when selecting employers then they could not be held responsible.

It was viewed that Sulpicio was responsible as they failed to remove captain Esrum Mahilum from the vessel despite a number of incidents involving the ferry while he was in command of it. Princess of the Orient had struck the bottom of Manila’s North Harbour, sideswiped a container ship and suffered a crippling engine fire while berthed at North Harbour, being towed first to Cebu and ultimately Singapore for repairs.

Despite these serious incidents while the ship was under Mahilum’s care, however, he was not removed from captaincy or even disciplined. A Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) investigation into the ultimate sinking of the Princess of the Orient would later say that Sulpicio did not have enough initiative to take action against him. The court ruled this made them responsible for his actions.

On September 18, 1998, the day of the sinking, Captain Mahilum was warned before starting out that severe weather was approaching. He wrongly calculated that the storm was safely distanced and left port regardless, running into the storm two hours later. Princess of the Orient began listing to the left and a distress call was sent, but she sank before help arrived. The BMI’s report blamed the disaster on the captain making “erroneous maneuvers of the vessel before it sank.” He remains missing to this day.

After the court ruled that this made Sulpicio liable to pay civil damages an appeal was filed, in which Sulpicio said that the captain “valiantly tried to save his ship up to the bitter end. He heroically went down with his ship.” Although he failed to properly supervise the abandon ship order he gave, he was last seen helping passengers to board life rafts. Sulpicio further alleged that careful analysis of the BMI report showed he did not directly cause the disaster.

The court rejected the appeal, with judge Estella Alma Singco saying that while the failure to remove the captain wasn’t the direct cause, “such failure doubtless contributed materially to the loss of life.” Sulpicio were ordered to pay P6.240 million in lost earnings, P100,000 moral damages, P50,000 indemnity – which Sulpicio had already offered to all the families of the deceased – and P50,000 in pursuer’s litigation costs.



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June 26, 2008

Obama offers sympathies to Fengshen victims

Obama offers sympathies to Fengshen victims

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama

The presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee and Illinois state senator Barack Obama conveyed his sympathies and condolonces to the people of the Philippines through President Gloria Arroyo, after the country was struck over the weekend by Typhoon Fengshen.

Obama also extended his regrets for not being able to meet Mrs. Arroyo who is on a 10-day official visit in the United States and met up with President George W. Bush at the White House.

The senator from Illinois stressed the strong bond between the Philippines and the United States, taking note of the two countries partnership during the Cold War era and during the Second World War. Obama also pointed out that the Philippines is also an important ally in the on-going war on terror.

He also expressed his desire on meeting Arroyo in the future and working closely with the people of the Philippines.

He also urged the Bush administration to provide more aid to the Philippines in the wake of the retrieval of victims of Typhoon Fengshen who drowned or were lost at sea.

Obama urged the “US government to provide emergency support to alleviate the suffering caused by the catastrophic natural disaster.”

Typhoon Fengshen lashed through the islands of the Philippines last June 21 to 22 causing mud floods, landslides and the capsizing of a passenger ferry, the MV Priness of the Stars, killing more than 700 passengers on board off the coast of Romblon island.

The National Disaster Coordinating Agency of the Philippines reported that five days after the ferry tragedy, only 48 passengers survived and rescuers were able to retrieve 67 bodies.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza also reported that 138 fishing vessels were reported missing as a result of Typhoon Fengshen.

A cargo vessel, the MV Lake Paoay carrying 5,000 metric tons of coal from the mines in Semirara island was also lost off the coast of Iloilo province.

Marine inquiry begins

The Board of Marine Inquiry of the Philippines was convened Wednesday on the possible criminal and civil liability of the owners of the passenger ferry MV Princess of the Stars.

Rear Admiral Ramon Liwag ordered the management of Sulpicio Lines to submit several documents such as certificates of conveniences, permits to depart port, navigational manuals and other important papers by June 27.

Liwag was also hopeful that the ferry’s captain, Florencio Marimon, Sr. survived the mishap and shed light on what really happened.

During Wednesday’s inquiry, Sulpicio Executive Vice-President Edgar Go assured the panel that the ferry was in top condition.

Liwag questioned Go as to how the ferry was cleared to sail Friday night when Typhoon Fengshen was plotted by the weather bureau to strike the area Cebu province were the ferry was destined.

The inquiry told Sulpicio Lines that as of June 2007, the Philippine Coast Guard was mandated under a Memorandum Circular stating, “restricting movements during bad weather, vessels of any size are banned from travel when public storm signal 3 and 4 are raised within the point of origin, route and destination.”

The representative of Sulpicio Lines denied any knowledge of such a circular.

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June 22, 2008

Over 700 feared dead after ferry hit by typhoon

Over 700 feared dead after ferry hit by typhoon

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Typhoon Fengshen

It is feared that over 700 people have died after a ferry in the Philippines capsized after being hit by Typhoon Fengshen. So far, 38 people from the ferry have been found alive. Some people were washed onto the shore. One of the survivors, Reynato Lanoria, a janitor on the ferry, said that about 100 people jumped into the ocean.

The ferry left Manila en route to Cebu on Friday, and according to the owners, Sulpicio Lines, contact was lost at about 12:30 local time Saturday.

A rescue ship was sent to rescue the survivors, although this only happened 24 hours after contact was lost with the boat.

One of the survivors described the incident. “There were many of us who jumped overboard, but we were separated because of the big waves,” he said.

He continued, “The others were also able to board the life rafts, but it was useless because the strong winds flipped them over.”


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MV Princess of the Stars



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