Oriental Mindoro oil spill

MARINA revokes Princess Empress operator’s license

Lance Spencer Yu

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MARINA revokes Princess Empress operator’s license

FOUND. The MT Empress Princess found in the waters of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, on March 21, 2023.

Philippine Coast Guard

The shipowner, RDC Reield Marine Services, faces a one-time maximum penalty of P100,000 if the revocation becomes final

MANILA, Philippines – The shipping company that owns MT Princess Empress, the tanker that sank in Oriental Mindoro and spilled more than 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil, has had its license revoked for operating the vessel without permission.

In a press conference on Friday, May 19, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) announced that it has revoked the Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) of RDC Reield Marine Services, Inc. in a decision issued on May 11.

FAST FACTS: Things to know about RDC Reield Marine Services

FAST FACTS: Things to know about RDC Reield Marine Services

The tanker, which was never added by MARINA to the company’s CPC, sailed at least 17 times before it ultimately sank on February 28 and is still 400 meters deep off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.

“Based on the records of MARINA, no CPC amendment has yet to be approved, and as we know the vessel was able to sail several times. But based on the statement of the Philippine Coast Guard, which conducts our pre-departure inspection, there was a CPC decision that was submitted to them, and on the basis of the same, they cleared the vessel to sail,” said Sharon Aledo, director of the MARINA-Legal Service.

However, Aledo clarified that “there is no approved CPC amendment issued to MT Princess Empress.” It’s possible that the MT Princess Empress may have sailed using a forged permit shown to inspecting Coast Guard personnel. Coast Guard officials have defended their personnel a number of times, saying they presumed the documents presented by the crew of the oil tanker were in order.

MARINA is also looking into possible violations of its circulars – from the construction of the vessel to its registration – by the Orient Registry Shipping Incorporated, Navis Engineering and Marine Services, and Reyeld Townsite Shipyard Corporation. A National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) probe found that MT Princess Empress was not new as RDC had declared, and that it was rebuilt from scrap.

The revocation, which covers all vessels of RDC, is not yet final and executory. RDC has the option to file an appeal within 15 days from the May 11 issuance. Because of this, the details regarding the investigation and how the MT Princess Empress managed to sail several times without a permit have yet to be made public.

If the revocation becomes final, a one-time maximum penalty of P100,000 will be imposed on RDC for operating without authority.

Despite the revocation, RDC may still apply for another certificate in the future, but MARINA does not expect this to happen.

“Generally, the shipowner who owns ships can still apply. But in this particular case, we have yet to know whether later on they will apply, but of course, there is already notice. MARINA is already aware of what happened, so that will be, of course, taken into consideration. We honestly do not expect that a new CPC will be applied for by RDC or that it will be processed and issued even in the future,” Aledo said.

The sinking of the MT Princess Empress caused a Tier 3 oil spill – the highest level – that has disrupted the livelihood in over 21 municipalities and cities and soiled the marine ecosystems in these areas. The oil spill has killed marine life, damaged coral reefs, and polluted beaches. It has also caused multi-billion economic losses to the fishing and tourism industries.

MARINA is continuing its investigation into the sinking of the MT Princess Empress, which includes looking into the possible culpability of its personnel. So far, two individuals are under scrutiny. The regional director of the MARINA regional office that issued the registration in Region V or Bicol Region is also under investigation.

“We have had sinkings before but no one has been held to account. This time all parties, whether private or public, will be held accountable. There will be no exception,” said Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista in a separate statement late Thursday.

Meanwhile, MARINA confirmed that the Philippine Coast Guard has received P33 million from the Oil Pollution Management Fund and has purchased the necessary equipment for the oil spill clean-up.

MT Princess Empress left the private port SL Harbor Terminal in Limay, Bataan with its cargo of “black oil” bound for Iloilo on February 28. It encountered strong winds and rough waters along the way, and its engine gave way when seawater poured onto the ship. It sank later that day causing environmental damage that could reach P7 billion.

More than 24,000 fisherfolk, mostly in Oriental Mindoro, have been unable to fish, with economic losses reaching P4.7 billion as of May 15, Monday. – Rappler.com

Oil spill exposes a Coast Guard in dire need of modernization

Oil spill exposes a Coast Guard in dire need of modernization

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Lance Spencer Yu

Lance Spencer Yu is a multimedia reporter who covers the transportation, tourism, infrastructure, finance, agriculture, and corporate sectors, as well as macroeconomic issues.