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Charges set to be filed against owner of the Princess Empress tanker in the Philippines

Charges set to be filed against owner of the Princess Empress tanker in the Philippines
Sam Chambers April 7, 2023

The owner of the sunken Princess Empress product tanker will likely face criminal charges in the Philippines.

The ship went down in stormy conditions off the island of Mindoro at the end of February, its cargo of more 800,000 litres of industrial fuel oil then gradually seeping into the sea in the worst oil spill to hit the Southeast Asian archipelago since 2006.

The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) said it has found probable cause for the filing of administrative charges against the owner , Manila-based RDC Reield Marine Services, for its failure to have the right paperwork in order to sail. A senate hearing also heard that the ship had travelled on nine previous voyages without the right paperwork.

“We are determined to make sure that people do not forget that what happened was a crime and not an accident. It was a crime,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla told local media on Tuesday.

The Princess Empress was found three weeks ago by a Japanese remotely operated underwater vehicle, at a depth of nearly 400 m. The vehicle has since managed to wrap some bags around some of the leaking parts of the tanker.

Oil has been found as far away as the western island of Palawan, more than 350 km from where the tanker went down.

Some oil has also drifted north to the Verde Island Passage, between Mindoro and the Philippines’ main island of Luzon, an area highly prized for its rich marine bioversity.

The ship’s history has been brought into question. While shipping database Equasis lists the locally flagged Princess Empress as being built in 2022, the country’s justice secretary has said the vessel was in fact very old, a candidate for scrapping, that had been modified twice, including a period where it traded as an LPG carrier.