Aquinas, Sulpicio captains blame each other for Cebu sea mishap

The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) suspended the captains of passenger ferry M/V St. Thomas Aquinas of 2GO Group Inc. and cargo ship Sulpicio Express Siete, which collided off the coast of Cebu Friday night.

This as both captains appeared before the Special Board of Marine Inquiry (SBMI), which began its formal investigation on the incident today.

As of posting, 79 people are confirmed dead from the tragedy, while 41 are still missing.

During the probe, it was revealed that neither of the two ships used their horns or whistles to warn each other.

Captain Reynan Bermejo of the sunken 2GO passenger ferry testified that forty minutes before impact, he saw the Sulpicio cargo vessel on his ship's radar, traveling on the wrong lane.

According to him, he and his crew tried in vain to contact the cargo ship, which he said was traveling fast at 13.2 knots. He said he decided to steer his ship to the other side about four minutes before impact, but it was too late.

Sulpico Express Captain Rolito Gilo denied traveling fast, saying they were only at 7 to 8 knots.

According to him, it was the passenger ferry that was coming in too fast on the wrong lane.

Gilo added that a 3rd ship, the Trans-Asia Nine, was traveling on the right side of his ship, making it impossible for him to avoid the Thomas Aquinas.

A total of 831 people were on board the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas, 715 of whom were passengers while 116 were crew members, when the cargo ship rammed into it last August 16.

Sulpicio Express Siete, which carried 36 crew members, sustained damage but did not sink.

Earlier this week, Marina also suspended the operations of all ships owned by both 2GO and Philippine Span Asia (formerly Sulpicio Lines). The suspension has since been lifted after the ships underwent inspection.

In an interview with ANC Thursday, Marina administrator Maximo Mejia said a vessel traffic management system needs to be set up to prevent future collisions.

READ: After Cebu ferry disaster, PH asks what went wrong