Marina mulls cancellation of ferry owner’s franchise

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Dr. Maximo Q Mejia, Jr . Administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) . http://www.marina.gov.ph photo

MANILA, Philippines—The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) on Saturday threatened to withdraw the franchise of Medallion Transport after one of its  ships, the M/V Lady of Mount Carmel, sank off Burias Island in Masbate province early Friday, leaving two passengers dead and seven others missing.

In a statement, Marina Administrator Maximo Mejia Jr. said that he would not hesitate to recommend to the Marina board the revocation of the franchise or the Certificate of Public Convenience  of the company if it is found to have been negligent.

He cited reports from Marina’s Cebu Office that at least two passengers were not listed on the ship’s manifest.

Mejia said he has already issued an order suspending the Seafarer Identification and Record Books of all the ship’s crew members pending the results of an investigation.

“The grant of franchise is not a matter of right but a privilege which can be taken away if public interest so requires. Ship owners have the primary duty to ensure that their ships are fit to withstand the perils of the sea and that their crew possess the required competence to perform specific duties on board ships,” he said.

Mejia added that he has already dispatched a fact-finding mission to gather information that can be used as basis to file appropriate charges against the company.

He said he has ordered Marina safety officers to inspect the remaining ships of the Medallion Transport to ensure that they are seaworthy, especially now that the typhoon season has begun.

The Medallion ships subject to special inspection and audit are the  M/V Lady Angels, M/V Lady of All Nations, M/V Lady of Miraculous Medal, M/V Lady of Guadalupe-Cebu, M/V St. Padre Pio, M/V Lady of Sacred Heart and M/V Lady Divine Grace.

The Marina  said the M/V Lady of Mount Carmel was  a 33-year-old steel-hulled ship of 98.46 gross tons that was built in Japan in 1980. It has an authorized passenger capacity of 212 persons.

The latest Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) report said there were 70 people aboard the ship when it sank.

The 70 people include 39 passengers and 22 crewmembers, including the ship’s captain, Lauro Mateo, who have been rescued; two passengers who died and seven passengers who are still missing.

The PCG, Bantay Dagat and local fisherfolks were continuing the search for the missing passengers.

According to the PCG, only 35 passengers and  22 crew members were listed on the ship’s manifest.

“Clearly, there were passengers whose names were not declared on the manifest,” PCG spokesperson Armand Balilo said, adding that three of the seven missing people were on the list, while the four others were not.

Balilo also said that the PCG teams have scoured the waters off Masbate near the site of the sinking for traces of a possible oil spill.

“Ordinarily, roll-on-roll-off vessels use diesel fuel so there is little danger of an oil spill harming the environment. But we expect to get reports immediately if our teams spot an oil spill. As of now, there is none. But nonetheless, our Marine Environmental Protection Unit was already sent in the area to check,” Balilo said.

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