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Solar I crew failed to turn on emergency equipment

September 11, 2006

By AMITA LEGASPI, GMANews.TV

THE Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) on Monday found that the crew of the ill-fated tanker M/T Solar I had violated safety procedures when they failed to turn on signaling equipment that automatically send distress signals.

Solar I radioman Herminio Regil told the board that their emergency position indication radio beacon (EPIRB) and search and rescue radar transponder (SART) were turned off because they wanted to save on battery power.

The equipment, when switched on, would automatically send distress signals.

EPIRB is a radio transmitter which sends out signals that allow it to be located by search and rescue aircraft. SART is used to locate a survival craft or distressed vessel by creating a series of dots on a rescuing ship’s radar display.

Regil was also unable to switch on the equipment when the 998-ton ship was already sinking.

The Solar I sunk off the central Philippines island-province of Guimaras on August 11. It leaked out more than 300,000 liters of oil into the sea in the worst oil spill in Philippine maritime history.

Oil giant Petron Corp. chartered Solar I to transport some two million liters of bunker fuel from Bataan to Zamboanga.

BMI member Commodore Benjamin Mata said the crew of the sunken ship could have been rescued right after the incident if the emergency signaling equipment were working.

(For the rest of the piece, click GMA News, Sept. 11, 2006.)

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