Archive for the ‘Coast Guard’ Category

They Let the Ferries Sail That Night Anyway: The Denouement of the Classic Conflict

January 6, 2009

As I said in my previous article [“Storm Signals Lowered, Coast Guard Suspension of Trips Remain, the Classic Conflict and Ten Thousand Stranded in Bicol, 01/04/09], I would like to see how the classic conflict between ensuring safety at sea and ships wanting to sail in borderline conditions (seas are probably rough because of prevailing weather conditions but storm signals were lowered) will be played out.

At 8:30pm the same night the Coast Guard allowed ships to sail, citing that PAGASA has already lifted the storm signal (though the typhoon is still signal and there is no guarantee that it will not change course; after all, Typhoon Frank changed course during the night and capsized the unwary but negligent MV Princess of the Stars).

Did they just wait for media to finish the early evening news? Or is it the situation that ship captains and owners are at their faces demanding to sail? It could also be the pressure coming from many passengers who are already at the end of their patience. And local governments tiring of caring for the thousands of passengers encamped in their jurisdiction. It could also be all of the above.

Fortunately, no “unfortunate incident” happened. But we cannot be lucky all the time. But taking chances is life’s reality here.

I just wonder why Philippine Navy and Coast Guard vessels are moored in major ports and not near the busy ferry lanes. How can they respond fast if a distress call is issued? So many ferries left Allen (Northern Samar) and the ports of western Leyte and Bohol that night carrying thousands and thousands of passengers. Wouldn’t it be better if they have been escorted?

I just hope that when they let the ferries sail that they were in a better position to help if things did not go right.

Storm Signals Lowered, Coast Guard Suspension of Trips Remain, The Classic Conflict and Ten Thousand Stranded in Bicol

January 4, 2009

As of 4:30pm today, Sunday, January 4, 2009 Typhoon ‘Auring’ has changed direction to the North and it will no longer hit land. Consequently, all public storm signals have been lowered except for Eastern Samar.

If there are no storm signals prevailing, normally ferries can set sail. However, for prudence’s sake, the Philippine Coast Guard maintained its suspension of sea travel at 10 points. That will mainly be in Bicol, Eastern Visayas and Caraga region.

Reports say over 10,000 people are stranded in Bicol. I will not be surprised if the total number of people right now reaches 30,000 all over the suspension areas.

I have said in a previous article that it is wave heights that primarily matters and not wind speed [“Two Boat Sinkings, A New Year Ferry Suspension in Bicol, Wave Height and Gale, 01/02/09]. But I checked the PAGASA forecast and there is no mention of wave height! It is Mike Padua’s weather service website ‘’ that has a wave height forecast but it is just near the typhoon’s center.

So nobody knows right now how large the wave will be in the ferries’ routes. Though PAGASA enjoins ships to report meteorological conditions in their specific areas I don’t know if this is heeded. And if heeded I don’t know if PAGASA has a way of consolidating and disseminating it.

This is the borderline area that produces sea accidents. Of course, ship companies would want to sail. In the case of overnight ferries to Cebu if they don’t sail they probably won’t have a ship available for the next night because none arrived. And this throws awry their set schedules.

As I write this it is the time for peak departures of ferries. These departures are usually bunched between 7 to 8pm. I know that they will be trying to break free of the Coast Guard leash and try to sail even by midnight tonight so they can still meet their sked tomorrow. So sometimes this becomes a cat-and-mouse situation. If the seas are rough in their ports, the captains may not turn out bull-headed at all. But if it is calm, he will be at the face of the local Coast Guard commander, who in many cases is not of officer rank. But, of course, he will have no way of knowing how strong are the seas in his route.

The situation points out one problem in the Philippines. Even in Spanish days we have watchtowers who are able to observe local sea conditions. This was reinforced by the Americans. Part of this system are the lighthouses. However, in recent decades the old watchtowers started to crumble and some of the lighthouses are already automated, meaning there is no one manning them.

But the problem is this system is not under PAGASA but under the Coast Guard and it is PAGASA that makes the forecasts. Moreover, many of these lighthouses have no communication to a data collection point. Sayang (a waste), because anyway many of these have cell site coverage. And big ships are anyway sailing but I wonder if reports from them are assidously followed up.

Old England has a system of coast watchers. Don’t we need to emulate it given our long coastline and reliance on the seas?

I will be interested in the further development of this discourse. This is a safety at sea question where people, especially the sailing public, should be interested in.

[photo credit:daylite]

23 drown in another ferry boat mishap

December 15, 2008

The storyline is similar for many ill-fated boats in the Philippines. It’s often a passenger ferry which comes out in a stormy weather then keeling over, causing the deaths of innocent passengers. Disregard of travel advisories, overloading, failure to follow typhoon warnings, inaccurate passenger manifests, and lack of common sense are among the reasons why many of these boats sink.

The tragic tale had been repeated in M/B Mae Jan— the inter-island vessel which sank on Sunday, December 14, 2008 in Aparri, Cagayan. The ill-fated ferry which killed at least 23 people left port in inclement weather with about 80 passengers. Fifteen (15) were reportedly missing and 43 were rescued alive. Overloading was suspected.

Alex De los Santos of the Ballesteros Police Department named 11 identified fatalities as follows: Amy Arellano, Wilfredo Agatao, Angel Suarez, Kristine Cangas, Eva Llopis, Leonardo Llopis, Ofelia Balmes, Paz Escalante, Karen Fadero, Angela Tabo, Abella Arellano. Their bodies and that of 11 other victims were taken to funeral parlors in Aparri for identification.—Inquirer (12/15/08, Kwok, A)

Last month, on November 6, 2008, nine (9) people drowned with Rolly IV, the passenger vessel which sank in Iloilo. The dangerous maritime record of the Philippines will continue so long as no significant government action is done to curb the recurrent sea mishaps. =0=

UPDATE: December 17, 2008. As of presstime the death toll rose to 45 and 8 individuals are still missing. The boat’s owner was reported to be among the dead.

RELATED BLOGS: “RP’s maritime disasters: a harvest of blame and shame” Posted by mesiamd at 11/08/2008; “Ferry boat sinks in Masbate killing 40” Posted by mesiamd at 11/04/2008; “Boat mishap in Iloilo, 9 dead” Posted by mesiamd at 11/06/2008; “The need for witnesses in the Princess of the Stars toxic chemical recovery” Posted by mesiamd at 9/25/2008; “Endosulfan safely retrieved: where are the other toxic chemicals?” Posted by mesiamd at 10/07/2008; “Toxic Cargo” Posted by mesiamd at 6/28/2008; “A Sorry Maritime Safety Record Indeed In The Philippines” posted by myty555 at 11/09/2008


May barko na naman na lumubog!

November 26, 2008

Paano naman di mawawalan ng tiwala tayo sa ating sarili kung panay na lang masamang balita ang nasa diaryo. Kung minsan ang ibang mga manunulat ay gusto ng maka-iwas sa mga negatibong mga balita. Nguni’t kadalasan, di pe-pwede, gaya ng malimit na pagkalubog ng ating mga barko sa Pilipinas.

Me nagsasabi na ang mga usaping nakaka-rinde gaya ng barkong lumubog ay hindi makakabuti sa lipunan. Tama, kung meron tayong ginagawa sa problema. Pero kung wala, ang pag-kukunwari na OK lang (walang masamang nangyayari) ay di mabuti! Lalo na kung tayo ay nag-aasa na ang problema ay papawi na di tayo kumikilos para magkaroon ng solusyon.

Ang pagiging positibo ay mabuti, kung may batayan. Pag wala, nakakabigay lang ito ng sandaliang pag-asa. Ang ligaya sa di pagharap sa katotohanan ay dumadaan lamang. Nandiyan pa rin ang suliranin kung ang problema ay di matugunan.

Ang mga reaksiyon na ito ay matagal ng problema natin. Halos wala na ngang gustong kumibo. Abala na lang tayo sa buhay pang-pamilya hanggang dumating ang araw na tayo na rin ang nagiging mga biktima ng problema sa kalsada. Halatang walang mai-tulong sa atin ang mga nasa pamahalaan.

Ang “denial” ay paborito nating depensa sa problema. Kadalasan ito’y umu-obra, kahit na wala tayong pag-kilos. Nguni’t ang “denial” sa tagal ay lalong nakakapalala ng ating mga suliranan. Ang di pag-harap ng katotohanan ay sa banding huli, nakakasira sa ating pamumuhay sa lipunan. Heto ang isang halimbawa:

Di pa nga tapos ang pagluksa ng mga namatay sa pamapasaherong lantsa sa Masbate na lampas 40 tao ang namatay ngayong buwan, (800+ ang namatay sa Princess of the Stars ng ito’y lumubog sa Romblon limang buwan ang nakaraan, ) heto na naman ang masamang balita ni Lt. Gary Dale Limotea ng Coast Guard. Ang cargo ship na Mark Jason na papunta sa Batanes galing Maynila ng Noviembre 17 ay lumubog. Katorseng (14) tauhan at 6 pang iba ang sakay. Buti na lang 16 ang nasalba sa incidente, nguni’t 4 na tao ay nawawala.—Philstar/AP (11/26/08)

Bakit pawang ganire na lamang ang trahedya ng ating lipunan? Wala na ba talagang pwedeng gawin ang govierno, Coast Guard, at MARINA para maiwasan ang ganitong mga sakuna? Hindi na ba natin pwedeng ma-ipatupad ang mga regulasyon ng paglakbay sa dagat? Di na ba natin maiwasan na hintuin ang pag-viaje kung meron bagyo. Hanggang “denial” na lang ba tayo na marami sa ating inocenteng mamamayan ang namamatay na di nabibigyan ng hustiya? Saan ba gagaling ang pag-unlad ng ating buhay?(Photo Credits: Mauritius100’s; Lorca56) =0=

RELATED BLOGS: “RP’s maritime disaster Ferry boat sinks in Masbate killing 40” Posted by mesiamd at 11/04/2008; Princess of the stars: a harvest of blame and shame” Posted by mesiamd at 11/08/2008; “A Sorry Maritime Safety Record Indeed In The Philippines” Posted by myty555 at 11/09/2008