Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cement cargo on sunken vessel worries chiefs

CEBU CITY -- Officials of four barangays in Lapu-Lapu City appealed to a shipping company to retrieve its sunken cargo vessel as soon as possible.

They worry that the submerged 23,000 sacks of cement may harm marine life and affect their residents’ livelihood.Cebu Coast Guard Commander Rolando Punzalan Jr. on Friday sent the B&E Sea Transport Corp. a letter stressing the urgency of salvaging the vessel and its cargoes, and siphoning the oil from the vessel.

Mayor Paz Radaza also instructed the City Legal Office to send the Cebu-based shipping company a letter requesting its immediate action.

The company cannot be reached for comment Friday.

Last Tuesday, a company liaison told the Coast Guard that the company’s owner is in Manila to look for a company that will recover the vessel, Punzalan said in an interview.

The MV B&E Uno sank some 200 meters away from the shoreline of Barangay Canjulao at 9:30 p.m. last Sunday, after it ran aground while going to Pier 4 in Cebu City.

Some of its four officers and 14 crew members swam to shore safely, while others were picked up by the vessel’s service boat.

Looc village chief Mateo Dungog said the presence of cement may contaminate the seawaters and affect marine creatures.

“Many of our residents depend on fishing for income,” he said, noting that a fourth of the barangay’s population depend on fishing.

On Friday, Dungog and the village chiefs of Babag, Canjulao and Calawisan checked the site where the vessel sank. They were accompanied by personnel of the City’s Task Force Kalikasan.

Andy Berame, administrative officer of the task force, said they will send divers to check the area today, Saturday.

“We have established our coordination with the Coast Guard,” he said.

Last Thursday, Commander Punzalan met with Mayor Paz Radaza to brief her on the situation. No representative from the company attended the meeting, although he requested the company to send one, Punzalan said.

“We need the full cooperation of the shipping company,” he said.

Punzalan said the Coast Guard will resort to legal actions if it sees that the company delays the retrieval of the vessel. He said he will talk with the Coast Guard district commander about the problem.

Berame said the presence of cement underwater may increase the turbidity or cloudiness of the seawaters, blocking sunlight as a result.

When corals and other marine creatures die due to the absence of sunlight, the fish will move to another place, resulting in a smaller catch for fishermen, said Berame.

Roderico Tagaan, head of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, said eating fish that are exposed to the cement may be harmful.

The vessel, whose mast can be seen above the water, had 1,000 liters or five drums of diesel and 100 liters of lube oil on board when it sank.

Last Monday, the Coast Guard laid an oil spill boom in the waters where the vessel sank, to contain any oil spill.

The Coast Guard also sent divers last Thursday to plug five vents of the vessel’s oil tank and install sinkers to hold the oil spill boom.

The vessel, which came from Iligan City, was unable to dock at Pier 4 in Cebu City around 9 p.m. last Saturday because there was not enough berthing space.

It docked temporarily near FF Cruz Wharf in Mandaue City. Around 7 p.m. last Sunday, ship captain Jaime Cabajes received the go-signal to dock at Pier 4.

While maneuvering in the waters near the pier of Super Shuttle Ferry and Gothong Wharf, the vessel ran aground. It tilted but regained its balance immediately.

When the water started to flood the vessel’s engine room, Cabajes decided to steer the ship toward the seashore of Barangay Canjulao to dock safely but it sank 30 minutes later