MAKING OUR SEAS SAFE AGAIN

IN HER 2014 report for the Worldwide Ferry Safety Association entitled ‘Improving the Safety of the Philippines Ferry System’, Abigail Golden of Columbia University was able to trace the main causes of major ship accidents in the country for the period 2000 to 2012.

Golden’s study revealed that the main reasons for at least 15 sea incidents that occurred during that period included passenger overloading, stormy weather, vessels’ crew that are poorly trained in accident scenarios, improperly stowed or balanced cargo,  vessels malfunctions and old and second-hand ships.

Of all these reasons, second-hand and aged sea vessels were pinpointed as the main culprits why there were frequent sea accidents especially during stormy weather.

As we all know, it has been the practice of many ship owners and operators to buy second-hand ships as old as 30 years from other countries like South Korea and Japan and pass them off as new by repainting their bodies and modifying their features and specifications.

It is good therefore that newly-appointed Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) Administrator Marcial Amaro III has made it clear that he wanted to do away with that old practice and ensure that only sea-worthy vessels would now be able to sail on our seas and oceans.

In a memorandum he issued last month that sent shock waves across the local shipping industry, he basically prohibited the importation of old vessels to be used for shipping business. 

In particular, Amaro’s  circular prohibits the importation of second-hand vessels that are over 20 years old, as well as imposing a floor size of 500 gross tons. 

In other words, importation of ships that are either too old or too small is now prohibited, while also leaving only a small window for the importation of so-called “fast crafts” weighing less than 500 GT to be regulated by another upcoming circular. 

In one stroke, Amaro practically made local shipping lanes safer for all stakeholders particularly for passengers. 

It was a brave move especially since for the longest time, members of the so-called Cebu Group have been lording over in the local maritime industry and no one dared to go against them until Amaro came long. 

The group is said to wield so much powers that they can practically dictate on who should be appointed or not particularly on so-called juicy positions.

But with Amaro at the helm, it seems like the once influential group has been sidelined and unlike his predecessors, he is a tough nut to crack.

The good thing going for Amaro is that he is determined to correct some ‘unpleasant’ practices in his agency while ensuring that our seas will be safe again.

 

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