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Chinese ship's distress call came 3 hours after boat collision — coast guard

Chinese ship's distress call came 3 hours after boat collision — coast guard
Patricia Lourdes Viray June 30, 2020 -

MANILA, Philippines — The Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel that collided into a Philippine fishing boat in the coastal waters off Occidental Mindoro took three hours to report the incident to authorities.

Vice Adm. George Ursabia Jr., commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), said they received a distress call from the master MV Vienna Wood three hours after the incident through email.

Official report from the coast guard indicated that the collision happened at around 10:20 p.m. on June 27 while the command center of the PCG headquarters received the distress signal from the Chinese ship at around 1:46 a.m. on June 28.

In a virtual press briefing Tuesday, Ursubia said those three hours were "very crucial."

"Ang theory ko tumaob na 'yan so 'pag tumaob na 'yon habang maaga pa it was not taking so much water yet so hindi pa siya submerged pero capsized na siya so pwede pa sana mapasok 'yung ibang spaces niya para sana makuha natin 'yung mga na-trap doon if ever na mga missing crew," Ursabia told reporters.

(My theory is that the boat already turned over so while it was still early it was not taking so much water yet so it is not yet submerged but capsized so we could have still gone inside other spaces to rescue those trapped missing crew if ever.)

Search and rescue operations are still ongoing for the 12 fishermen and two passengers aboard fishing boat FV Liberty 5 in the waters of Occidental Mindoro. The PCG will evaluate on Thursday whether to continue with the operation.
Hong Kong-flagged ship did not send rescue boats

According to the account of MV Vienna Wood, they stopped and remained in the area after running into the FV Liberty 5.

The cargo ship, however, did not deploy any small boat to provide assistance to the Philippine fishing boat.

"They did not leave the area for reason that there were already a number of fishing vessels present in the area not to mention that their ship is very big that they have to maneuver it afar from the small vessel because of safety reason," Ursabia said.

Initial investigation from the PCG found that poor visibility and unfavorable sea conditions brought about by the southwest monsoon or "habagat" caused the collision.

The coast guard, however, is still considering other factors, such as the competence of the crew of the offending vessel. Investigation showed that a third mate, the most junior officer, was on the lookout when the maritime incident happened.

Ursabia said they would also have to check the cargo vessel's safety management system onboard, as well as if the Philippine vessel had complete navigational lights.
Cargo ship might face charges

The PCG chief noted that the offending vessel may face charges depending on the result of the investigation.

"We have to establish liabilities here because of such accident. It's possible that they will have criminal and civil liabilities also in this case but there has to be due process," Ursabia said.

Part of the investigation will also be to find out why MV Vienna Wood took three hours to send a distress call to authorities.

"We are looking at their responsiveness and promptness in sending such distress call... It's a question for the investigator to really establish why it took them three hours," the coast guard chief said.

Meanwhile, MV Vienna Wood has been detained since Monday and will not be allowed to leave yet. Hong Kong, as flag state, has been informed of the maritime incident.

"The flag state is well informed and flag state has already communicated with me in my capacity as commandant asking for initial report and we will be giving them initial report of the incident," Ursabia said.