Philippine Ferry Incident – 255 People Caught in Ship Fire

survivor.jpgDetails are still emerging on a wood hulled ferry that caught fire shortly after departing Manila, Philippines. So far five people are confirmed dead and many have been injured.

The AP wire tells us:

Passengers have been rescued by passing vessels, but authorities are not yet certain if all have been saved from MV Catalyn D, which caught fire off Mindoro island, about 105 miles southeast of Manila, said Commander Joseph Coyme, a coast guard spokesman.

The ship was en route from Manila to southwestern Palawan province with at least 216 passengers and 21 crewmen on board when the fire broke out, Coyme said, prompting passengers to abandon the ferry. Philippine Ferry Carrying 237 On Fire

Reuters tells us:

“Based on our initial investigation, the fire started in the ship’s cargo bay,” Coyme told reporters as dozens of people plucked from the sea were brought back to Manila.

“An investigation is underway to determine what caused the fire.” Coyme said the coast guard received distress signals early on Sunday morning, a few hours before the fire engulfed the ferry, causing it to sink. The ferry left Manila late on Saturday night for Palawan. Hundreds rescued in Philippine ferry fire

The Hindu writes:

“We saw smoke billowing from the storage room of the ship, then the fire quickly spread to the second floor and then to the rest of the ship so we immediately put on our life jackets and jumped into the water,” said Rod Terilla, 39, who survived with burn wounds to his back.

The ship was almost entirely gutted, with only its hull floating on the water by the time survivors were ferried away from the site by passing motor boats, Terilla added. Philippine ferry with 260 people on board razed by fire.

It’s hard to imagine that a wooden ferry would be carrying such a large number of people and possibly with cargo that has potential to ignite. It also seems that this is not the first incident for the company with fatalities still in the memory of those aboard a San Nicolas Lines ferry when it collided with a vessel in 2004.

With good and bad aspects of the decision apparent GMA news tells us:

(the company) may be charged with “reckless imprudence resulting in possible homicide. The ship’s captain, a certain Capt. Paeldog, is already under the Coast Guard’s custody.

The operations of eight passenger and two cargo ships of San Nicolas Lines- that also owns the ship that caught fire off Mindoro Occidental island – were suspended by the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) after the said sea tragedy claimed the lives of five people, radio dzBB reported Sunday.

The good side of the report is the country’s Maritime Administration is quick action. The move to pull the company’s other ships out of service was probably a positive and potentially lifesaving measure. Lessons learned in Bridge Resource Management and incident chain prevention have shown the need to take action, by adding resources or “stopping the job”, when uncertainty exists.

The bad side of the report is the potential criminalization of the vessel’s master before the facts are clear. For those interested the Council of American Master Mariners has an excellent round table discussion on the subject which can be found HERE.

UPDATE: Coast Guard of the Philippines Commandant Admiral Damian Carlos’ comments.

UPDATE 2 from safetyatsea.net;

Philiipine Coast Guard officials said there were at least 20 passengers on the ship no on the manifest, and several others had been “smuggled” on without tickets. These violations are issues that the Special Board of Marine Inquiry will focus on when the board convenes today. PCG commandant Damian Carlos said that Cathlyn’s authorised passengers and crew totalled 267 but a running tally of those rescued and killed (five so far) now stands at 287. He said this would be a violation of the law requiring ship captain to attest that a vessel is seaworthy and not overloaded before it leaves port.