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Will Solar-1 insurers pay for negligence?

September 8, 2006

GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc
The Philippine Star 09/08/2006

MARITIME experts caution the owner and charterer of the oil spilling M/T Solar-1 against talking too much about insurance. Sunshine Maritime Development Corp. and Petron Corp. could raise false hopes in bragging that their pollution insurance will cover the oil spill’s damage to livelihood and health in Guimaras and Iloilo provinces. For all they know, the insurers may not pay up – not with the findings of investigators.

So far the Special Board of Marine Inquiry has found the captain to be slapdash in sailing a leaking ship over five-meter waves. Too, Sunshine had assigned him as tanker master although unlicensed as such, and Petron did not protest the infraction. Apparently, moreover, the Coast Guard had cleared Solar-1 to sail in extremely bad weather in the first place, and the Maritime Industry Authority did not do a good job of inspecting it on dry dock only last Feb.

No insurance firm would be so generous or gullible as to pay for the obvious negligence of all parties involved.

* * *

Philippine Ports Authority boss Oscar Sevilla contends that other agencies, not his, are in charge of ship departure clearance and seaworthiness. Nonetheless, he adds, “the PPA will prevent any inter-island vessel from sailing if there was any information from government agencies concerned that such vessel failed to comply with requirements.” That is Sevilla’s way of stating that the PPA is not in conflict of interest, like the Coast Guard and MARINA, for sitting in the special board investigating the Solar-1 sinking.

Experts disagree. Capt. Michael B. Cuanzon, for one, says that the Coast Guard and PPA in Limay, Bataan, goofed in clearing the ship to sail into extremely bad southwest monsoon. A maritime researcher and trainer, retired master mariner and former chairman of the Board of Examiners for the Deck, Cuanzon asserts that port state control is the job of both agencies. “There’s a checklist of safety precautions, issued by the International Maritime Organization, for inspection of vessels before departure,” he says. “It covers almost all the safety requirements for a tanker to be declared fit for the voyage.” The Coast Guard and PPA, along with Petron that runs the Limay port, should have consulted the checklist. To begin with, Cuanzon says, they should not have allowed the number of passengers to exceed the life vests and approved capacity.

Cuanzon suggests that investigators look closer at what happened when water started filling up the forward compartments of Solar-1. The crew claimed that they stopped at the Guimaras Strait near Iloilo City without dropping anchor, pumped the water out, and fixed the leak from the forecastle deck ventilator. “They probably plugged it with cement block because port rules require permission for any hot works,” Cuanzon opines. “Cement settles and dries after about 15 days, but Solar-1 sailed only a few hours after stopping. When it headed out to open seas, the still wet cement must have caved in due to strong waves, so it leaked again.”

(For the rest of the piece, click Jarius, Sept. 8, 2006.)

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2 comments

  1. May be not!or yes!!!!!! But the public want the petron to pay for the damages of the oil spill in guimaras!of course solar1 insurer will not immediately jump off to payment because its tantamount to accepting faults.

    definetly solar 1 will not solely accept for their own lapses where in they would be charged of everything.the company would also seek partialty in terms of damages.


  2. Obviously, there’s a lot of negligence on this incident. From the charterer, owners of Solar 1 to the different government authorities.

    For charterer, Petron, they should have checked the competency of the Solar 1 in carrying their cargoes. This should include inspection of the seaworthiness of the vessel itself and of course up to the crew who’s running it. There’s a big difference in running an oil tanker with a chemical tanker, Petron, should know this. Though, Petron may be covered with their own insurance policies, however, it is a basic exclusion on any marine insurance if the seaworthiness of the vessel is in question.

    For the vessel owner, it is but common logic that the vessed should be manned by a qualified pilot, that the passenger capacity of the vessel should be followed not only for the safety of the cargo, vessel but of the passenger as well. We just do hope that the insurance coverage of Solar 1 is comprehensive enough since it is the people around Guimaras that would suffer on this incident.

    For the government authorities, as always, washing of hands is a common scene when this kind of incident happens. We can be sure that those government agencies are protecting their asses and pointing blame to others. We are paying taxes to the national government for this! Please, give us a break. Government authorities are there to ensure that proper rules and procedures are followed, whether Marina, PPA or Caost Guard, they have all the right to stop a certain vessel from sailing out to seas if they found something is wrong with the vessel or its crew.

    We do hope that no other similar incident happend since its the common people that being greatly affected. We do hope that we all learned that complacency of all parties involved affects greater numbers.



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