Sulpicio Lines loses permit to transport people

Buena Bernal
Sulpicio Lines loses permit to transport people
Almost 7 years since the sinking of M/V Princess of the Stars, which left over 700 dead or missing, government decides Sulpicio can now only ferry cargos

MANILA, Philippines – More than 6 years after the sinking of its ferry which claimed over 200 lives, Sulpicio Lines Incorporated is no longer allowed to transport people.

The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) decided on an administrative case that took 4 years to hear, cancelling on January 23 Sulpicio’s certificate of public convenience (CPC) for the carriage of persons.

The decision was made available to media Monday, February 16.

Based on the decision, Sulpicio’s 13 current ships and any addition to its fleet in the future are now limited to cargo operations.

One of Sulpicio’s 5 sunken ferries, M/V Princess of the Stars, tipped off near the coast of Sibuyan island in Romblon province in June 2008 during a powerful storm. 

The 2008 tragedy saw more than 200 persons dead and more than 500 missing.  

Relatives of the victims served as private complainants in the CPC cancellation case.

“The hearings on this case spanned from 23 June 2008 to 12 April 2012 or 3 Administrators of the Agency,” the Marina decision read.

In the end, the Marina board found, among others, that “liability also goes to the shipping company for its failure to exercise its extraordinary duty as a common carrier.”

The 50-page decision was signed by Marina Administrator Maximo Mejia Jr and Deputy Administrator for Operations Gloria Victoria Bañas, by authority of the Marina board. 

The decision still allows the filing of separate civil and criminal charges in relation to the tragedy.

It also penalizes Sulpicio, now registered and operating as Philippine Span Asia, of a P800 fine for the loading of Endusulfan, a dangerous substance. The board admitted “that the penalty prescribed is not commensurate to the injury caused,” proposing to revisit and amend the 1997 circular prescribing the fine.

Criminal case

The Supreme Court Second Division has yet to release its final decision on whether to reinstate a criminal case against Sulpicio executive Edgar Go over M/V Princess of the Stars’ 2008 sinking.

The victims’ kin who filed the petition argued that “a reasonably prudent employer” should have immediately ordered the captain of the ship “to drop anchor and/or seek shelter in a safe location,” given the Signal Number 3 storm.

Closure has yet to be achieved by some family members, with a number of bodies yet to be retrieved years after the tragedy.

Over 100 civil cases are pending before a Manila court and a Cebu trial court, but petitioners maintain that the criminal case against Go must be revived.

They also underscored Sulpicio’s notoriety in ferry mishaps.

Between 1980 and 2008, they said, Sulpicio reportedly had 15 vessels that run aground, 5 vessels that sank, 6 vessels in collision incidents, 4 vessels that caught fire, and 3 vessels stalled at sea.

The 5 sunken vessels include the Sulpicio Container I in 1980, the Doña Paz in 1987, the Doña Marilyn in 1988, the Princess of the Orient in 1998, and the Princess of the Stars in 2008.

The December 1987 sinking of Doña Paz left more than 4,300 dead, considered the world’s worst peacetime shipping disaster. (READ: History of ferry disasters in PH) –

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