THE Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) in Caraga and Northern Mindanao imposed a strict regulation on motor banca operations by ordering a ban on the use of the upper deck for all motor bancas effective immediately.
Emmanuel Carpio, Marina director for Regions 10 and 13, imposed the directive to ban or prohibit the use of the second upper deck for accommodation of passengers and/or stowage of cargoes for all motor bancas.
“All motor banca owners and operators are likewise directed to require the mandatory wearing of life jackets of passengers on board all motor bancas at all times during the voyage and comply (with) all other safety measures,” Carpio stated in his circular.
He added that all motor banca owners and operators should submit their units for inspection and re-evaluation.
The move came two weeks after M/B Kim Nirvana capsized a few meters off Ormoc City pier wherein 62 passengers died, 158 survived while five are still missing.
Meanwhile, a group of seafarers questioned the explanation of Marina Adminsitrator Maximo Mejia Jr. that the motor banca capsized because it was “misloaded” and that the vessel was not overloaded.
Engr. Nelson Ramirez, president of the United Filipino Seafarers said in a media briefing held in Quezon City, pointed out that Mejia told lawmakers that the ship – even though it carried 207 passengers and crew, or more than the 178 allowed and carried sacks of cement and rice – was not “overloaded.”
Ramirez said he is puzzled over Mejia’s used of the term “misloading.”
He said aside from the passengers, witnesses reported that the vessel had large amount of rice, cement, and fertilizer sacks in the cargo area.
He added that Mejia was simply making excuses for those responsible for yet another maritime tragedy.
Ramirez also accused the Marina official for approving the boat design.
“All sea-going vessels carrying more than 100 passenger are required to have inflatable life rafts onboard; why did Marina exempt M/B Kim Nirvana from this requirement? Did he not ask Marina’s OIC in Region 8 Ms. Maristel Letigio about this, or did he just turn a blind eye on this very important safety equipment,” he added.
“Shipping is a serious business especially in an archipelagic country like ours. It needs to be regulated under the highest standards. With more than seven thousand islands spread out from Luzon to Mindanao, interisland vessels are crucial links between local economies; they are the most cost-effective means of hauling people and products from port to port,” Ramirez added.
Ramirez said it is all too easy to blame ship owners and agencies for being too greedy for profits but the blatant disregard for a culture of safety is sorely lacking even at the levels of industry and government gatekeepers who should have been the very first ones to be advocating for it.
The Manila Times failed to get any reaction from Mejia as of press time.