PCG institutes proactive measures to prevent maritime accidents

June 20, 2010 11:02 pm 

MANILA, June 20 — Two years after the tragic "MV Princess of the Stars" sinking off Romblon province, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has instituted more proactive measures to minimize, if not totally prevent, maritime accidents.

It can be recalled that on June 21, 2008, the Sulpicio Lines Inc. (SLI) flagship passenger Ro-Ro (roll off-roll on) vessel M/V Princess of the Stars capsized at the vicinity of Sitio Cabitangan, Barangay Taclobo, Sibuyan Island, Romblon during the onslaught of typhoon Frank.

The ill-fated vessel was en route to Cebu City from Manila when the accident happened. The disaster served as an "eye-opener" for those who are in the forefront of promoting safety of life and property at sea.

Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, PCG commandant, said the sea mishap stimulated the entire maritime industry to strengthen its efforts and adopt measures to prevent such incidents from recurring.

For the PCG, the lessons learned from the M/V Princess of the Stars tragedy have become the driving force for the PCG and other cognizant agencies to set up more proactive measures and strengthen prevention as well as response efforts within their respective mandates to promote maritime safety.

In April 2010, salvors successfully refloated and towed the shipwreck approximately 1.6 kilometers from its original position. The vessel originally capsized in some 200 feet of water approximately 1.85 kilometers from the shoreline of Sitio Cabitangan, Barangay Taclobo, Sibuyan Island.

The shipwreck has already been towed or moved to only 250 meters from the shore. Further, the hull and superstructure of the vessel had already been cut and separated, making it more manageable for PCG and the salvors' divers to scour the interior compartments of the shipwreck for possible human remains that may still be trapped inside the vessel.

The wreck is well within reach of the divers at a depth of approximately 70 feet. Since then, efforts were directed towards the wreck removal, including the procedures to be undertaken to make the hull of the vessel upright.

Recently, however, the ship’s hull had to be brought down to the seabed for safety reasons, particularly to prevent the shipwreck from breaking loose and running aground sensitive areas or to be adrift and pose hazard to navigation.

The salvors, according to Tamayo, were forced to stop the refloating and uprighting of the ship’s hull in view of the onset of the southwest monsoon and typhoon season which have already affected the sea condition in the area. However, other operations such as the retrieval of cargoes and debris continue as weather permits.

In reference to the Salvage Report dated June 18, 2010 submitted by Royal Jessan Petromin Resources Inc., as confirmed by the PCG On-Scene commander, the joint PCG and salvors’ divers were able to complete 100 percent the underwater scouring of all interior spaces of the wreck where human remains might still be possibly found.

The PCG has thus recommended to the Task Force Princess of the Stars (TFPOTS) the termination of the underwater human remains retrieval operations.

From Feb. 1, 2010 to June 18, 2010, the human remains retrieval operations yielded 70 human remains which were turned over to Public Attorney's Office (PAO) for forensic evaluations and tests. (PNA) scs/JES

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