Steel-laden vessel met rough seas: Cebu-bound ship missing

08/09/2010 - CEBU, Philippines – A cargo vessel bound for Cebu with 16 crew members and loaded with steel bars went missing in the waters of Dos Hermanas Island, Marinduque since Saturday dawn.

The vessel was identified as M/V SF Freighter owned by Seaford Shipping, a company based in Bacolod, but whose mother port is in Cebu.

Kevin Chua, Seaford operations officer, said that they lost communication with the vessel at 2:15 a.m. on Saturday when it was east of Marinduque.

SF Freighter left Manila at 8:33 p.m. last Thursday and was supposed to arrive yesterday in Cebu at 11:30 p.m.

The Philippine Coast Guard action center in Manila sent two vessels and one aircraft to search the area since Saturday. Seaford Shipping also sent three vessels to help in the search and rescue operations.

But rescuers failed to find the missing ship until they had to stop the search operation due to huge waves that prevented them from getting nearer the site.

Duty Officer Mikhail Desuasido of PCG Southern Tagalog District said that their headquarters in Manila ordered to suspend the operation until today due to the huge waves and less visibility at night.

Desuasido said they have sent notice to mariners to shipping and fishing communities especially passenger and cargo vessels passing Romblon and Calapan in Mindoro to also scout the area and to offer assistance should they find the missing ship.

Chua said that the last report they received from the information officer of the ship was that it experienced engine trouble. It went adrift until it lost radio communication.

Desuasido said that there was no typhoon threat but vessels were warned against big waves since Saturday.

A Coast Guard plane spotted a lone ship yesterday in waters off Marinduque but bad weather forced the plane to turn back before it could identify the vessel.

Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said another attempt would be made when the weather clears.

According to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration strong winds associated with the southwesterly surface wind flow enhanced by tropical storm Ester is affecting the sea boards of Luzon and Visayas. Waves can go as big as 3.7 to five meters.

SF Freighter has a gross tonnage of 498 and was carrying 1000 tons of steel bars to be delivered to different consignees in Cebu. It is 65 meters long and colored blue with white on the bridge section.

Its crew members were mostly from Cebu and Negros.

Chua said that before they lost communication with the vessel, the crew members have already called their relatives regarding the situation.

Chua assured that Seaford Shipping will fulfill all its obligations to the kin of their employees if worse comes to worst.

But he said that they are focusing now on the search and rescue operation, because they have not lost hope that the vessel and its crew members are still safe somewhere.

Meanwhile, another vessel, SP Beijing, developed engine trouble while cruising at the vicinity of Cabra Island in Occidental Mindoro.

SP Beijing is a 4,599 gross tonnage cargo vessel with 18 crew members onboard en route to Indonesia from China when it encountered engine trouble and called for rescue.

The coast guard immediately sent Notice to Mariners and ordered it to be towed in Batangas.

Another Incident

Aside from the crew of SF Freighter, the Coast Guard is also searching for 12 people that went missing after the motorized banca they were riding capsized off San Miguel Island in Albay since Thursday.

The Coast Guard in Albay said they are still searching for the 12 teachers that went missing after their motorized banca capsized off San Miguel Island.

Bicol Coast Guard commander Elson Hermogino said they were informed by Adonis Collantes, a teacher of Fatima Elementary School that his colleagues went missing after boarding a banca going to barangay Maliktag in San Miguel Island.

Gusty wind and waves, meanwhile, pulled up the anchor of an oil barge M/T Big Town in Manila Bay late Saturday, causing the wayward vessel to ram seven fishing boats and destroy several shanties along the coast of Navotas, Tamayo said. No injuries were reported.

Police were forced to put up a barricade to prevent residents from attacking the crew of the oil tanker in blaming them for the damage to their homes.

The maritime accidents came as tropical storm "Ester," which has enhanced monsoon rains and winds in northern and central Luzon, has moved away from the country, the state weather bureau said.

Maritime authorities, however, warned to expect rough seas even as the storm continues to move away from the country toward Japan.

As of 4 p.m. yesterday, Ester was spotted some 410 kilometers northeast of Basco, Batanes with maximum sustained winds of 65 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness up to 80 kph.(Freeman)

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