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Jarius Bondoc: Questions for MARINA on Quezon ferry tragedy

Questions for MARINA on Quezon ferry tragedy
Jarius Bondoc January 24, 2018 -

The ferry Mercraft-3 sank off the coast of Real, Quezon, four mornings before last Christmas. Five passengers perished, and 11 others severely were injured. The report of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) is as dramatic as it is anesthesized:

Mercraft-3 was supposed to cross to Polillo Island at 6:15 a.m., but due to bad weather sailed off four hours later. Not long afterwards, with visibility still poor, it hit a metal buoy on the starboard (right) side. Immediately seawater rushed into the broken hull. The two submersible pumps that the crew used to flush out the water proved futile. Swiftly water reached the engine room. Between S-O-S calls, the bell was rung to abandon ship. The first rescuing fishing boat arrived two hours later, taking in dozens of passengers. Some men jumped off and swam for shore against the three-meter-high waves. The Coast Guard completed the rescue.

Something sorely was lacking in the report. MARINA, which certifies vessels and seafarers for seaworthiness, made no mention of the condition of Mercraft-3 or its crew. In fact, it refused to give info on the vessel’s registration and the crewmen’s training.

MARINA chief Marcial Amaro has since been sacked by President Duterte. It wasn’t for the tragedy, but for traveling abroad 24 times in the 18 months he was in office. Nothing’s moving at present at the headless agency. Yesterday Duterte announced the appointment soon of retiring Armed Forces chief Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero as new MARINA boss. To quickly learn the ropes, Guerrero might want to probe into these:

• Is it true that the Owner, Master, and Chief Engineer are all surnamed Merano with the same middle initial?

• Why only six officers and crew? What were their licenses? Were they certified for emergency passenger handling?

• With 268 seats in the 26-meter-long craft, were not the passengers too tightly packed? Who approved that passenger capacity and layout? Since that passenger capacity necessitates that the craft be double-decked, was a height-inclination test done; by whom? Was the required emergency evacuation drill conducted before the full-packed vessel sailed off? How many minutes did the evacuation drill take?

• Was the fast craft classed, as required under rules of the International Association of Classification Societies? (More than 90% of ships worldwide are covered by IACS, which consists of 12 marine member classification societies.) What class was Mercraft-3 and the class conditions?

• Which MARINA personnel approved Mercraft-3 for construction and operation? Why have no names been revealed up to now?

These questions are basic in any sea tragedy. Asked constantly, the effect would be to prevent tragedies. That would be the best legacy for any MARINA chief.