MV Thomas Aquinas Ferry Collision with Cargo Ship

Last Friday MV Thomas Aquinas sank after it collided with cargo ship Sulpicio Express 7, off the central port of Cebu in Philippines, 1.2 miles (2km ) from the shore. The ferry was carrying approximately 715 passengers and 116 crew. Crrently at least 600 survivors have been rescued.

2013.08.20 - Philippines MV Thomas Aquinas Ferry Collision with Cargo Ship Figure 1

The cargo ship, Sulpicio Express 7, had 36 crew members on board, but it did not sink after the collision although it sustained considerable damage as it is shown in the photos. The ferry that sunk was about 40 years old.

The Philippine Navy and Coastguard are currently operating trying to enter the wreckage which is located in a depth of 98 feet (about 30 meters). Unfortunately the operations are being  hindered by the poor weather that is prevailing in the area and the strong currents of the sea.

Reports state that as the ferry was beginning to sink  the passengers jumped into the water in an effort to save themselves. Another rather shocking information regarding the accident is that it has been report that about 58 babies were among the passengers on board although it is not cleared how many of them died.

2013.08.20 - Philippines MV Thomas Aquinas Ferry Collision with Cargo Ship Figure 2

Until now approximately 52 people have lost their lives , with the death toll rising every day since as the search and rescue operations proceed.

Regarding what might have caused the accident, Central Visayas District Commander of the Coastguard Commodore William Melad stated the accident investigation is to find if there was a violation of the navigating rules.

It should be noted that maritime accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago mainly due to adverse tropical weather, badly maintained ships and of course insufficient enforcement of safety regulations. The world’s worst maritime disaster in peacetime occurred in the Philippines in December 1987. More than 4,000 people died in the Dona Paz ferry collision with a tanker.

Update 1: 21 August 2013

CNN has reported that local officials say that the oil from the accident is damaging fishing grounds and beaches in the adjacent area. Mayor Andelino Sitoy of Cordova stated that approximately 3,000 hectares of fishing ground in Cebu are covered with oil. The oil spill has caused problems to the mangroves where fish usually obtain their food, as well as to the seabed and therefore harming shellfish and eels that can be found there.

Update 2: 23 August 2013

The Philippine Coast Guard suspended the captains of both the “Sulpico Express Siete” and “St. Thomas of Aquinas”. The decision as a result of the pending investigation of the collision between the ships.

Up until now, 78 passengers from the ferry have been confirmed dead and approximately 42 are missing.

According to statements from the captain of the sunken ferry the timeline of the accident can be summarized as follows:

  • The ferry MV Thomas Aquinas had a speed of 15 knots before the collision and had a distance of approximately one mile from the cargo ship Sulpicio Express 7.
  • Communication could not be established with the cargo ship through Channel 16 and only radar contact was maintained because visual contact was not possible because of background lights.
  • The captain of the ferry saw the red lights of the cargo ship much later and he immediately switched to hard port about four or five minutes before impact.
  • Approximately four minutes before the impact the ferry could not slow down anymore as collision was imminent. It would take about eight minutes to stop the ship’s propeller.
  • Within the four minutes, the ferry was able to maneuver to port side, which was the only evasive move before the collision.
  • After having turned port, the captain of the ferry maneuvered to starboard so as to avoid the collision.
  • Finally, the “Sulpicio Express Siete” hit the passenger vessel’s shoproom.

The captain of the ferry also testified that he was forced to alter the course because he did not get any response from the caro ship’s captain.

On the other hand the captain of the cargo ship stated that he contacted Aquinas while it was still two nautical miles away but got no response. The captain of the cargo ship stated also that if the passenger had stayed on the inbound course, the collision would not have happened. He also said that he did not foresee possibility of collision.

Statements will also be taken, as part of the investigation, from the captain of the “Trans Asia 9”, which happened to pass by the accident site minutes before the collision. and from the crew of the ferry and the cargo ship.

Update 3: 03 September 2013

According to the Philippines Coastguard Divers have recovered more dead bodies from a ferry MV Thomas Aquinas, raising the death toll from the incident to 108.

Moreover, approximately twenty-nine more passengers are still unaccounted for.


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