Petron staff ‘complacent’; gov’t officials deny gag order

September 8, 2006


THE ill-fated tanker Solar I had exceeded its authorized maximum draft, or the length of the ship submerged in the water, when it departed the Petron refinery in Limay, Bataan last month, government investigators found on Thursday.

It was disclosed during a hearing of the Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) that the 998-ton tanker, instead of keeping a draft of 4.85 meters, its draft was at 5.1 meters when it left port last August 9. A ship’s draft increases with a greater load.

“They (Petron staff in Bataan) were so complacent because it has become routinary for them to unload and load cargo. They no longer check normal procedures prior to leaving the port,” said BMI member Commodore Benjamin Mata.

When Coast Guard Rear Admiral Danilo Abinoja told Capt. Norberto Aguro, skipper of the MT Solar I, that the vessel was “beyond the authorized draft”, the skipper replied that the cargo had come from Petron.

Mata told Aguro that it was his responsibility as captain to ensure to ensure that his ship was operating within its authorized capacity.

As this developed, government officials yesterday denied a gag order on reports about the Guimaras oil spill, but the Coast Guard commandant said that from now on, only the National Disaster Coordinating Council would issue statements on the country’s worst ecological disaster and efforts to clean it up.

“We’re just consolidating our information to avoid confusion,” said Coast Guard Commandant Arthur Gosingan.

His statement came after a Palace official announced Wednesday that the council’s regional offices had been ordered to stop making statements on the clean-up operations to avoid spreading wrong or inaccurate information.

Only Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz may make statements on the cleanup within the council, Gosingan said.

He said the Coast Guard would let the council decide what to do about the Solar I tanker and its toxic cargo of bunker fuel, which sank off Guimaras Island on Aug. 11. Joel E. Zurbano and Arlie Calalo, MST

(For the full stories, click Complacent and Deny gag, Sept. 8, 2006.)


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