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Oil firms OK’d captain’s papers; investigators note ‘violations’

August 29, 2006

CAPTAIN Norberto Aguro, master of the ill-fated MT Solar I, told government probers Tuesday that his capability to handle oil tankers passed the scrutiny of Petron Corp. and two other top oil firms.

Testifying at the first hearing of the Special Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI), Aguro said representatives of Petron, Pilipinas Shell and Caltex (now Chevron) Phils. have all evaluated his training documents but never questioned his qualifications to operate oil tankers.

While occassionally noting that he was “skilled” in his craft, however, Aguro on Tuesday admitted knowing that his seafarer’s identification card expired back in 2002.

The matter was raised by Capt. Ernesto Bondoc, a member of the BMI representing the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).

Aguro was the first witness for the investigation held at the Coast Guard headquarters in Manila. He arrived 9:45 a.m.

He sported a gray blue polo and black pants when he faced the board headed by Rear Admiral Danilo Abinoja of the Coast Guard.

The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), in its initial report on the incident, noted that Agoro does not have Advance Training on Oil Tanker Operations, “which is required for the Master on board oil tanker.”

“Thus [Aguro’s] COC (Certificate of Competency) limits him to serve on board chemical tankers only,” the agency said in its Marine Casualty Investigation Report released shortly after the incident.

In an exclusive interview with GMA News last week, Aguro maintained that the government did not require certification for oil tankers when he first secured his papers decades ago.

(Click GMA News for the full story.)

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SO the question is, despite the captain’s lack of qualifications to pilot the oil tanker, why did Petron and the other oil firms still allow him to ferry their products? Hmmm…I smell a money trail somewhere…

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