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Eastern Samar town eyes raps vs Chinese vessel owner

Eastern Samar town eyes raps vs Chinese vessel owner
Joey Gabieta - May 08, 2023

GUIUAN, Eastern Samar, Philippines — Mayor Annaliza Gonzales-Kwan of this town has started looking into possible legal actions against the owner and crew of a Chinese vessel that ran aground off Sulangan Island last April 19.

While there was no oil spill in the area, Gonzales-Kwan said that MV Zhe Hai 168, manned by an all-Chinese 20 crew members, damaged coral reefs and other marine resources, the amount of which has yet to be determined by authorities.

“We will only learn the extent of the damage to our coral reefs and seagrass once MV Zhe Hai 168 is completely refloated. They (ship owner and crew members) have to pay us, especially that Guiuan is a protected area,” she said in an interview on May 2.
Master divers

MV Zhe Hai 168, loaded with 55,000 metric tons (MT) of nickel ore valued at P300 million, was on its way to China from Homonhon Island, also in Guiuan town, when it encountered a strong sea current that drove the ship to a shallow portion of the sea.

Gonzales-Kwan said dive masters would be needed to refloat the vessel led by Capt. Shangjun Jiang and it would likely take weeks to do so due to the strong water current in the area.

“MV Zhe Hai 168 ran aground where the mouth of the Pacific Ocean is. That was why divers found it hard to refloat the vessel because of the strong current,” she said.

Emir Mineral Resource Corp., which operates on Homonhon Island where the nickel ore was extracted, sought the services of SMIT Salvage Singapore which subsequently contracted its local partner, the Manila-based Malayan Towage and Salvage Corp., to refloat the ship.
Past incidents

Gonzales-Kwan said she was informed that at least 14,000 MT of nickel ore inside the vessel have to be unloaded during the refloating process estimated to be completed on May 23.

The Chinese captain and crew members of the vessel opted to stay inside MV Zhe Hai 168 while waiting for the refloating procedures.

This was not the first time that a Chinese vessel encountered a problem in the waters off Guiuan’s island village of Suluan.

On Jan. 26, Kai Dai 899, a vessel with seven Chinese crew members, also drifted off the island.

In August 2021, the Chinese vessel MV Ambition Journey, which was also hired by Emir Mining, ran aground off Sulangan Island due to engine trouble.

The local government was able to collect P11 million from Emir Mining for the damage the vessel caused to coral reefs. Of the amount, P5 million went to the local government, P1 million to Sulangan village, and the remaining P5 million to the Guiuan Protective Management Office.

The Guiuan Protected Landscape and Seascape, also known as the Guiuan Marine Reserve, covers the Guiuan Island Group located off the coast of Guiuan town. The town’s water was proclaimed again as a protected landscape/seascape in 1994 under the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992.