Shifting cargo eyed in sinking
Improperly secured cargo may have caused the passenger ship MV Asia Malaysia to sink off the coast of Iloilo over the weekend, according to an official of the Philippine Coast Guard.
Lt. Commander Algier Ricafrente, PCG spokesperson, on Monday said the Special Board of Marine Inquiry convened to investigate the accident would look into the condition of the cargo on the ship, among other things.
“There is a possibility that the cargo were not properly secured and they might have moved,” said Ricafrente. “But it is still not certain and we will have to wait until the investigation has been completed.”
Improperly fastened cargo is among the many causes of ships sinking.
The vessel, heading from Cebu to Iloilo, listed to the right and sank off Calabasas Island at dawn on Sunday. All 134 passengers and 44 crew were rescued by passing fishermen and other vessels.
Ricafrente noted that the rains and waves were moderate when the accident happened.
PCG commandant Adm. Ramon Liwag has ordered the PCG in western Visayas to require the ship’s owner to hire the services of a capable salvor to extract the oil from the sunken vessel, Ricafrente said.
In Cebu City, the captain of the MV Asia Malaysia insisted that its crew and officers were not at fault, saying that the sinking was due to force majeure.
In his marine protest submitted to the PCG, captain Romualdo Geraldizo said the ship left for Iloilo on Saturday evening with valid safety documents, complete with functioning safety of life at sea (Solas) and navigational equipment and safety devices.
“I hereby solemnly and publicly protest against any and all persons who may have interest in this incident, the same being due to a fortuitous event or force majeure and beyond the control and not the fault of the officers and crew of the MV Asia Malaysia,” Geraldizo said.
The ship left the Cebu port for Iloilo at 6 p.m. after it was inspected and cleared by the Cebu Coast Guard, according to Geraldizo.
Rolando Punzalan, Cebu Coast Guard station commander, said that Seaman2 Mark Benson Alob, who inspected the ship before it left Cebu, found its cargo properly secured.
Geraldizo said the number of passengers and cargo were within the authorized limit.
There was no untoward incident until 3:50 a.m. on July 31 when the vessel was in vicinity of Payong Point where it encountered strong winds, Geraldizo said.
The vessel took on water after it listed heavily to its right or starboard side due to the big waves hitting it on the left or port side.
Geraldizo said the vessel sank at 8:34 a.m.
Lt. Commander Godofredo Vagilidad, Coast Guard Bacolod head, said the ship settled on the bottom of the ocean about 50 to 60 feet from the surface, and three kilometers from Manapla town in Negros Occidental.
Commodore Athelo Ybañez, Western Visayas Coast Guard commander, said the fuel containment areas of the sunken ship could burst from pressure even if the fuel valves had been sealed. With a report from Carla P. Gomez