- As relatives of the victims of the MV Princess of the Stars tragedy continue to wait for news about their loved ones, the Board of Marine Inquiry has started its own search, not for survivors or bodies, but for those who must be held responsible for the disaster.
BMI findings in past investigations show that more than half of past sea mishaps were due to negligence. From 1980 to 2006, 13 sea mishaps involved negligence on the part of the owner, operator, officers and/or crew of the vessels. At least 481 people lost their lives in these tragedies (see table).
||Nature of mishap
|M/V Emerald I
|M/V Viva Antipolo VII
|M/V Kimelody Cristy
|ML Gretchen I
|M/V Kalibo Star
|F/B King Roger
|M/V Princess of the Orient
|M/V Asia South Korea
|M/V ACX Lilac vs. Barge Cargolift III
|M/V Maria Carmela
|Source: Board of Marine Inquiry
Meanwhile, “force majeure,” or forces beyond the vessel’s control, was blamed in one case – the sinking of the MV Doña Marilyn.
The ship sailed in 1988 and met rough waters as Typhoon Unsang hit the country. At least 77 people were reported killed when the vessel sank.
The BMI also found other causes of past sea tragedies.
In the 1987 collision of the MV Doña Paz and the oil tanker MT Vector, the BMI found the tanker solely at fault.
In another collision, the BMI found the MV Kota Suria at fault after its crashed with the MV Cebu City in 1994. The accident killed 73 people.
The sinking of the MT Solar I in 2006 caused the disastrous oil spill in Guimaras province. The BMI said it was “due to several factors,” including the vessel master’s “incompetence.”
In another case, the BMI recommended the revocation of the licenses of the master and chief mate of the MV San Nicolas a month after the vessel collided with MV Super Ferry 12. The BMI also recommended the filing of appropriate criminal and civil charges against the same people. The master of the Super Ferry got off with only a recommendation for a “strong reprimand.” The mishap involving the two vessels killed 43 people.
In the burning of the MV Super Ferry 14 in 2004 and the MV Doña Ramona in 2005, the BMI said explosives were involved.
While the BMI found who or what to blame in some of these tragedies, the Board has no power to pursue cases and punish those responsible.
The BMI is a quasi-judicial body that investigates sea mishaps and submits its findings and recommendations to the Department of Transportation and Communication.
The DOTC evaluates and takes the report to the Department of Justice for evaluation and possible filing of charges.
Rear Admiral Benjamin Mata, BMI vice chairman, said: “We need to form a truly independent BMI with powers to pursue its recommendations.”
He said the government must be able to show that “those found at fault are indeed punished.” - GMA News Research