MV Sulpicio Express Siete in wrong lane?
The captain of another ferry says the cargo ship Sulpicio Express Siete was on the inbound lane which put it in danger of a collision with the Aquinas ferry

AFTERMATH. Life rafts from the sunken ferry St. Thomas Aquinas float in front of cargo ship Sulpicio Express 7. AFP file photo/Ted Aljibe

CEBU CITY, Philippines – The Special Board of Marine Inquiry (SBMI) convened on Friday, August 23 to investigate the collision between ferry St. Thomas Aquinas and freighter Sulpicio Express Siete — a full week after the deadly incident.

The death toll from the incident has risen to 80, with about 40 still missing.

St. Thomas Aquinas Captain Reynan Bermejo and Express Siete Captain Rolito Gilo, accompanied by their respective lawyers, appeared during the inquiry.

Bermejo said that Sulpicio Express Siete was first detected on the ferry’s radar 2.6 nautical miles away while traversing the inbound lane near Lauis Ledge off Talisay City at 8:23 pm.

Bermejo personally checked the sea to spot the approaching ship but he could only see the city lights. He then instructed his crew to radio Sulpicio Express Siete, but they got no response.

He said Express Siete was also on the inbound lane, putting both ships in danger of a collision.

When the cargo ship was sighted a mile away, Bermejo maneuvered to the left, but it was too late.

Gilo, however, claimed that his ship was on the outbound lane maintaining their course out of the channel.

He said St. Thomas Aquinas was on the inbound lane approaching Lauis Ledge but suddenly turned right. They communicated with the ferry but there was no response.

READ: Cebu ferry collision: Captains blame each other

The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) has already suspended Bermejo and Gilo and all crew members of both vessels while the inquiry was ongoing, according to ABS-CBN News.


Capt. Fernando Faller, skipper of M/V Trans Asia 9 which went ahead of Sulpicio Express Siete before the deadly collision, was also at the hearing.

Faller revealed that Express Siete was on the inbound lane. By practice, outbound ships prefer taking the inbound lane in leaving the channel to avoid being run aground in shallow waters.

He added that the cargo ship requested at 8:38 pm to put its radio on frequency 12 from the normal 16 for them to communicate properly.

When approved by Express Siete to overtake at around 8:55 pm, Faller returned their frequency to 16. Two minutes later, Faller heard a distress signal from M/V St. Thomas Aquinas.

Trans Asia 9 was already 30 minutes away from the collision when it happened.

Lawyers of both captains persuaded the SBMI to allow questioning of the captains, instead of the captains merely submitting a prepared affidavit. This was denied. –