Friday, June 27, 2008

Trouble at Sea

I've been very busy the past few days at work and with my family life that several recent issues have passed me by already. I have yet to come up with a piece regarding the Ces Drilon hostage crisis, and then the sinking of the M/V Princess of the Stars happens.

Maybe when I find some time (when that time comes, I may never know), I'll try really sitting down to write. In the meantime, I'd like to share a nicely-written feature article from that discusses this most recent maritime tragedy involving -- yet again -- another floating coffin of the Sulpicio Lines. You can read about it yourself by clicking on this

Here's the entire article from It's still lacking in details, but it captures the thought of how grossly mismanaged our local shipping industry is:


The Philippine Ferry Disaster: Those in Peril
Jun 26th 2008 MANILA
From The Economist print edition

Not for the first time, navigating the archipelago by ferry proves deadly

The shipping industry in the Philippines put another big blot on its abysmal safety record when the ferry Princess of the Stars, carrying 862 passengers and crew, sank during a typhoon in the central Philippines on June 21st. By the middle of the week rescuers had found 48 survivors. But 70 bodies had been recovered and 744 people were still missing. The authorities had little hope of finding any more alive. It will probably turn out to have been the most deadly maritime accident in the Philippines for 20 years.

The route taken by the 24,000-tonnes Princess of the Stars from Manila heading for the central city of Cebu took it straight into the path of the approaching Typhoon Fengshen. The coastguard received a signal saying the ship had engine trouble and that it had run aground just off the island of Sibuyan. Survivors said that the order to abandon ship was given, but that the vessel capsized shortly afterwards in high winds and rough seas.

An official inquiry will focus on the captain’s decision to sail into the teeth of an oncoming storm and the coastguard’s decision to allow the voyage. It will also examine the seaworthiness of the vessel and the competence of its crew. The owners, Sulpicio Lines, said the vessel was only 24 years old (positively new, by Philippine standards) and that it met all the safety requirements.

The domestic shipping industry is vital to the economy of the archipelago, but its history is one of lethal mishaps. In 1987 the world’s most deadly peacetime shipping disaster occurred in the central Philippines, when another ship owned by Sulpicio Lines, the Dona Paz, sank with the loss of more than 4,000 lives. The rules governing shipping safety are comprehensive, but they are often weakly enforced and circumvented by corruption. Official encouragement of competition on domestic routes in the 1990s prompted owners to buy newer and bigger ships. But since then the advent of cheap air travel has creamed off the highest-paying passengers. The Philippines provides about one-quarter of the world’s merchant seamen, but the best officers and crew are lured away by the pay offered by foreign shipping lines.

Human failings aside, no one can legislate for the weather. About two dozen typhoons or weaker storms hit the country every year. Apart from sinking the Princess of the Stars, Typhoon Fengshen left more than 700 dead or missing in various parts of the Philippines.

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