CEBU CITY—Another ship captain testified that the cargo ship Sulpicio Express Siete was on the wrong lane when it rammed the passenger ship MV St. Thomas Aquinas on Aug. 16, killing at least 80 passengers of the Thomas Aquinas and causing an oil spill.
Capt. Vel Dumaguit, of Ocean Jet 8, testified at a hearing of the Special Board of Marine Inquiry on Monday that the Sulpicio ship was on the inbound lane intended for vessels entering Mactan Channel when it rammed the Thomas Aquinas.
Dumaguit’s vessel was on its way to the Cebu port when the Sulpicio ship rammed the Thomas Aquinas.
“My lane was occupied by Sulpicio (which was on his way out of the Mactan Channel). Sulpicio was really on the inbound lane. It obstructed my path. I tried to contact Sulpicio but no one answered me. So I decided to pass in between Sulpicio and another vessel (Trans-Asia),” he said.
Before the sea collision, Dumaguit said he heard someone from the Thomas Aquinas communicating with the Sulpicio ship.
“Aquinas requested for a port-to-port with Sulpicio through VHF Channel 16. During the first call, Sulpicio responded. But when Aquinas called Sulpicio for the second time, there was no response from Sulpicio,” Dumaguit said.
A Very High Frequency (VHF) radio allows captains and officers of vessels to communicate with each other. Anyone in the vicinity can hear communications through Channel 16.
Dumaguit said he never heard anybody from the Sulpicio ship calling the Thomas Aquinas.
Instead, the Sulpicio ship switched its VHF radio to Channel 12 when it communicated with Trans-Asia 9 that requested to overtake the cargo ship.
When Trans-Asia 9’s request was granted by the Sulpicio ship, Dumaguit said he decided to maneuver his vessel between two other ships to avoid a collision.
Dumaguit said the Sulpicio ship was on his right when he passed.
Dumaguit’s account affirmed the testimonies of captains Reynan Bermejo of the St. Thomas Aquinas and Galipher Ian Faller of the MV Trans-Asia 9 who both said that the cargo vessel was on the wrong lane.
However, Capt. Rolito Gilo of the Sulpicio Express Siete insisted his vessel was on the correct lane.
Noe Lastimada said he was on board his small boat to catch fish and was on his way to the Lawis Lighthouse, which was beside the inbound lane, when the cargo ship passed by.
Before he reached the lighthouse, he saw the Sulpicio ship hit the Thomas Aquinas.
After the collision, Lastimada said he saw people on top of Thomas Aquinas flashing lights from their cell phones for anyone who could rescue them.