Hole found in ferry’s bottom

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A hole at the bottom  of the MV Zamboanga Ferry is preventing retrieval teams from the Coast Guard and the ship owner from towing the vessel back to  Cebu City.

This was uncovered in an underwater  inspection done yesterday at 9:10 a.m. by Uni-Orient Pearl Ventures Inc., a Cebu-based salvage firm hired by  George and Peter Lines.

Based on the incident report of the Coast Guard Dumaguete station,  surveyors found “a gash measuring four inches by ¾ inches on the bottom plate right below the first gangplank or galley area of the vessel.”

The ship remains docked several meters from the Dumaguete pier.

“If there’s a hole, definitely the sea vessel is not seaworthy anymore,” said Capt. Rolando Punzalan, Cebu Coast Guard station commander in an interview.

He said the hole needs underwater patching which would take several weeks  to finish and drydock repairs.

Big waves and strong winds battered the ship last Thursday as it neared the coast of Dumaguete City.   The big waves caused by tropical storm “Auring” caused the ship to drift off course and pushed the vessel to  the pier where it “touched bottom”  and hit a shallow area.

All 228 passengers were  transferred by rubber boat to the pier, a rough crossing that took seven hours to finish the rescue.

A company official said the passengers’ needs were taken care of with food, medical attention and donations of clothes and slippers.

“Our Dumaguete team has been assisting passengers from the start and the situation onsite was very calm and organized.  Doctors and volunteers were on site. A system is in place for claiming of luggage and cargo and this has been communicated to the passengers and shippers,” said Jaja Chiongbian-Rama, vice president of George and Peter Lines based in Cebu.

The first batch of stranded passengers bound for Cebu  arrived in Cebu on Friday  morning on board the sister vessel  MV Georich.

A second batch arrived yesterday on board MV GP Ferry 2, said Rama.

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