Monday, July 7, 2008

Change of Uniforms: the Sulpicio Lines Spectre

This news came as a shock to me. All this time, we've been counting the number of ships under the Sulpicio Lines fleet that sank with a high mortality rate, and we came up with four: the M/V Doña Paz, the M/V Doña Marilyn, the M/V Princess of the Orient, and most recently, the M/V Princess of the Stars.

Little do we know that there have been other ill-fated vessels carrying the Sulpicio Lines banner. Much of these accounts have already been buried under heaps of Philippine maritime history, but probably for the sake of everyone, especially for those who were lucky to have survived those tragedies, we shall unearth them.


GMA News Research found out that Sulpicio Lines owned the M/V Princess of the World. According to the report, The ship was near the Zamboanga peninsula when it caught fire on July 7, 2005. Fortunately, all 200 passengers of the vessel were rescued.


Here's something a little more spine-tingling coming from a survivor with a tale to tell. I found this from the
Letters to the Editor section of I'd rather let her tell her story through her article:

I wonder why the vessel MV Boholana Princess, also owned by Sulpicio Lines, is never mentioned among the Sulpicio vessels that sank. I also wonder why there was no news of the sinking at that time.

I was a passenger on that ill-fated voyage and here’s my first-hand account: MV Boholana Princess left Cebu for Ormoc at 11 p.m. on Dec. 15,1990. Past midnight, the boat suddenly tilted to the left at an angle of 45 degrees. Passengers were startled out of their sleep, wondering what was happening. But there was no announcement through the public address system, or word from the ship’s captain and crew, about what was going on.

The passengers then scrambled to get life jackets. It was so dark outside the boat that jumping into the sea never crossed our minds. We were stranded for hours. Fishermen arrived to rescue us. But up to that point, there was still no announcement from the captain or from any crew member about what was happening. Finally, we started to evacuate the sinking vessel—with help from the fishermen, but none from the crew. Eventually, we all made it out of the ship.

Oh, by the way, before we left the boat, a guy asked us to surrender the vests we were wearing because they belonged to Sulpicio Lines. Yes, this happened many years ago, but everything is still so vivid in my mind because that incident made me scared of riding boats. This may be hearsay: while we were still on board, there was talk that the boat had hit a reef while the crew were in a drinking session. Still, we were all just grateful to God that nobody perished in that accident. It was all that mattered to us then—that we all came out of the accident alive.

In retrospect, we could have filed a suit against Sulpicio Lines because there was no announcement from the captain and crew about what had happened, and there was no rescue effort initiated by Sulpicio Lines.

Maybe the incident was never reported because there was no casualty. But all the passengers felt that the accident was caused by gross negligence. I hope an investigation into this incident will be conducted, because that will establish that MV Princess of the Stars was the fifth—not the fourth—Sulpicio ship to sink.


We checked this account with the Philippine Coast Guard. It is indeed on record that MV Boholana Princess, among 14 Sulpicio vessels that figured in an accident between 1986 and 1998, ran aground in 1990.—Ed


Maybe Sulpicio Lines should try batting for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the shipping company with the most passenger deaths? Oh, wait: I think they already got a slot from the Doña Paz sinking alone. I think that incident was recorded as the worst-ever peacetime sea tragedy.

I should know. the Doña Paz and the Doña Marilyn brought down with them people from my province in Leyte. These two ships were plying the Manila-Tacloban route when tragedy struck.

I will always remember that December in 1987 when Doña Paz sank. Everyone from Region 8 (Leyte, Samar, and Biliran) had a relative or two who went down with the ship. That was a very dark Christmas for all of us. Instead of celebrating the Yuletide season, days were spent attempting to identify bodies that were charred beyond recognition. For those who went to the Rizal Memorial Stadium where the bodies were brought, the stench of death and formalin was simply too overpowering.

Now, I am seeing the same situation with the M/V Princess of the Stars.

Apparently, the people of Sulpicio Lines still aren't affected by the fact that their hands are stained with the blood of all the victims of their negligence and greed. For them, paying up would somehow absolve them of their sins.

But tell me: how can you possibly equate a measly P200,000 with, let's say, a student who will never be able to complete his/her studies because he/she went down with a Sulpicio Lines boat?

These people of Sulpicio Lines may just as well be exchanging their uniforms for black cloaks while holding a scythe. For as long as their passenger vessels are still on the water, we'll never know who these Grim Reapers' next set of victims will be.

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