Cargo ship seized for misdeclaring departure date from China
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will file charges against a Panama-flagged cargo vessel after it allegedly misdeclared the date it went to China in a bid to evade the mandatory quarantine period imposed by the government to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
According to Commodore Armand Balilo, PCG spokesperson, the MV Harmony 6 arrived in the country on Sunday and claimed that it left Changzhou, China, on Feb. 10. This meant that its arrival coincided with the end of the two-week quarantine period required for vessels coming from COVID-infected countries.
However, Balilo said that a review of the data from the ship’s automatic identification system (AIS) showed a discrepancy in its travel history. He noted that the ship suddenly appeared in Philippine waters over the weekend.
An investigation into the ship’s movements found that it left China not on Feb. 10 but on Feb. 18. It was also learned that the ship’s Vietnamese captain, Luu Van Loi, turned off the AIS from Feb. 19 to 23.
The AIS, which tracks a ship’s location and movement, was only switched on hours before its expected arrival at the Port of Poro Point in La Union province.
Luu told authorities that while he did turn off the AIS, he did so because the system was not providing accurate information.
He, however, did not explain why he misdeclared their departure date from China. The PCG also did not disclose what the vessel was carrying nor did it provide information on why the crew was apparently in such a hurry to make port in the country.
Under the PCG’s guidelines in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, ships should first complete the 14-day quarantine period, especially if they came from a country where there are recorded cases of the disease. To date, there are 38 countries affected by the disease, which originated in Wuhan City in China’s central Hubei province.
Balilo said that only when the quarantine period had ended will personnel from the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) board the ship and conduct a health inspection of its crew.
He noted that because of Luu’s “misrepresentation,” the BOQ personnel conducted the health check on the crew just six days into their 14-day quarantine period.
Because of this incident, Balilo said that a case of fraudulent declaration would be filed against the captain. Currently, the vessel is held under temporary detention.
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