Vietnamese cargo ship removed from Legazpi village shore

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TUGBOATS help extract the Vietnamese cargo ship MV Minh Tuan 68 from the shores of a village in Legazpi City. The ship is being held by authorities for bringing in smuggled rice to the city’s port. PHOTO FROM COAST GUARD

LEGAZPI CITY—The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) succeeded on Monday night in extracting a 2,999-ton Vietnamese cargo ship that was washed ashore in Barangay (village) San Roque, 2 kilometers from the city proper, by strong waves spawned by Tropical Storm “Gorio.”

Commodore Aaron Reconquista, PCG commanding officer in Bicol, said the Coast Guard finally pulled out the vessel on the second day of retrieval operations during high tide at 10:45 p.m.

In a text message, he said the “MV Minh Tuan, while its engine was running, managed to pull out by its own propulsion,” while two tugboats were on standby to assist the ship.

Mayor Noel Rosal provided four drums of diesel fuel to start up the engine of the cargo vessel, while some 4,000 liters of diesel used by the two tugboats were supplied by the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

Within 15 minutes, Reconquista said the ship was able to set anchor on the site 500 meters away, where it was previously docked.

Five divers from a Coast Guard special unit were scheduled to conduct an underwater survey to check possible damage to the vessel on Tuesday.

The PCG and BOC will decide whether the vessel, owned by Ming Truong Shipping Lines, would be brought to safety to Sula Channel, a cove in Barangay Sula, Bacacay, Albay, 22 km from the city.

Leovigildo Doyoja, BOC Legazpi customs collector, in a phone interview, said the agency would not object to the transfer if the PCG could guarantee that the ship would not escape.

The Minh Tuan 68 has been impounded by the BOC and PCG since September last year after it entered the city port with 94,000 bags of rice smuggled from Vietnam.

Doyoja said his office had paid over P4 million in anchorage fees for the cargo ship and warehouse rentals where the rice cargo is being kept.

He said the vessel would still be held at bay while the auction of the rice shipment had been suspended pending the results of a case evaluation being undertaken by the BOC legal department in Manila.

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