CEBU CITY—A ship on the wrong lane, miscommunication and switching of maritime radio channels.
These could be the factors that led to the Aug. 16 tragedy when a cargo ship rammed a passenger vessel, killing up to 80 people.
At the start of the Board of Marine Inquiry hearing here, Capt. Reynan Bermejo of the MV St. Thomas Aquinas testified that the Sulpicio Express Siete, a cargo ship owned by the Sulpicio firm that has changed names following a string of accidents, was on the wrong lane when it rammed the St. Thomas Aquinas.
“On my radar, it appeared that the ship (Sulpicio Express Siete) was occupying my lane. When the distance between the two ships was around 2.6 nautical miles, I tried to call the other ship through radio. We kept calling her but there was no response,” Bermejo told the board.
But Capt. Rolito Gilo of Sulpicio Express Siete denied Bermejo’s claim, saying it was the St. Thomas Aquinas that was on the wrong lane.
Capt. Galifer Ian Faller of a third ship that was in the area during the ramming of the St. Thomas Aquinas by the Sulpicio also testified that it was the Sulpicio that was on the wrong lane.
Bermejo said he first made contact with the cargo vessel at around 8 p.m., or 40 minutes before the collision, but no one answered the calls.
“Five minutes before the impact, I knew that there was a possibility of a collision between the two ships,” he said.
While approaching Lawis Ledge, where the ramming took place, he said he could not maneuver the St. Thomas Aquinas to avoid the Sulpicio.