Mystery spreads along with slick

The government should acknowledge that a national emergency already exists as a result of the oil spill considering its widespread effect on the livelihood of affected residents and ultimately, the economy

As the slick from MT Princess Empress spreads all over the Visayas region, threatening to cause an unprecedented marine disaster, what has become notable is the piecemeal response from those being relied on for a quick response.

While stakeholders urge the declaration of a national emergency considering the enormity of the economic and health backlash from the oil spill, the response is moving too slowly.

The government should acknowledge that a national emergency already exists as a result of the oil spill considering its widespread effect on the livelihood of affected residents and ultimately, the economy, an industry veteran told Daily Tribune.

Agency heads have not called a meeting and it is already two weeks after oil leaked from MT Princess Empress, carrying 800,000 liters of industrial oil, which sank in the waters off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.

The sinking caused a massive oil spill that prompted the provincial government to declare a state of calamity in 77 coastal barangays.

“I was already suggesting even on day 2 that this is going to be a disaster of national proportions but nobody took action or even would take notice,” a veteran in the maritime industry indicated.

The situation calls for immediate action from the government since industrial oil had started to seep out of the vessel.

Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga estimated that the spillage is about 35,000 to 50,000 liters a day.

“The fuel showing up on the beaches is of a thicker substance compared to the fuel oil used by the tanker and the situation has become very dangerous,” an industry veteran told Daily Tribune.

“A summit should be called by the government that should include international experts. The Japanese came but they only sent advisers. The Department of Transportation has been too slow to respond,” according to the source.

“The Japanese wanted to know what kind of assistance it can provide and sent experts, I guess they wanted to know what kind of assistance is needed from them,” he said.

Japan is the nearest when it comes to international standard oil recovery equipment.

The tanker sunk to about 1,000 feet which makes it require sophisticated equipment to suction off oil from the beleaguered tanker.

Princess Empress is not even a brand-new tanker but was apparently assembled from pieces of old tankers.

“I think it is very important to determine the real age of the tanker since ship owners always lie about it. The engine may not even be brand new,” the source indicated.


Int’l standard for tankers

Orient Classification Society or OCS certificate should be shown by the vessel owner. “The OCS seeks the submission of diagrams of the supposedly brand new vessel and will certify that they really supervised the construction and check if all the steel used were properly classed,” the source indicated.

The industry source said the vessel can be compared to a museum relic. “There is talk that second-hand steel was used and that the Caterpillar engines in it may not be brand new.”

Tankers also undergo SIRE which stands for Ship’s Inspection Report which involves the audit of oil companies on vessels on charter.

“Under SIRE, the vessel, its owners, and its managers are vetted. Oil companies have their requirement sometimes higher than class rules, especially Shell,” according to the industry source.

It was found that the vessel was chartered by a unit of conglomerate San Miguel Corp.

SL Harbor Bulk Terminal Corporation, under SMC unit San Miguel Shipping and Lighterage, chartered RDC Reield Marine Services to ship the 800,000 liters of industrial fuel through tanker MT Princess Empress that sank off the coast of Oriental Mindoro.

SIRE is usually required in the charter contract. Charterers put the condition in the contract that “vessels and managers must have SIRE approved by a major.”

As a sign of cooperation among oil companies, approval by one major firm is recognized by the others.

In the Philippines, it is practiced by oil majors Shell, Caltex and Petron.

“I don’t know if Princess Empress secured SIRE from Petron. It is possible, (the) vessel does not have one as it was chartered by SL Bulk, a subsidiary of SMC,” the source added.

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