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Marina says Solar I load ‘within limits’

September 12, 2006

•Indictment sought for 9 in oil spill case

By Leila Salaverria
and Armand Nocum
Inquirer

THE Maritime Industry Authority on Monday defended the amount of load it allowed the Solar I tanker to carry, saying that it was still “within allowable limits.”

But a member of the Special Board of Marine Inquiry (SBMI) said allowing the Solar I to carry a larger load affected its stability and contributed to its sinking on August 11.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice panel investigating the Guimaras oil spill yesterday recommended the indictment of the nine Filipino and Japanese incorporators of the company that owns the MT Solar I for possible violation of the Anti-Dummy Law.

In a 10-page “partial report” released yesterday, the panel directed the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the Sunshine Maritime Development Corp. (SMDC), including background checks on the financial capacity of the Filipino shareholders to put up the company’s P5.5-million paid-up capital.

The panel, made up of DoJ Undersecretaries Ernesto Pineda, Macabangkit Lanto and Fidel Exconde, discovered that P4 million of the company’s paid-up capital was put up by the Japanese shareholders, a fact that could be in violation of the law.

SMDC, incorporated on February 22, 2002, is engaged in a nationalized industry reserved for Filipino citizens or corporations with at least 60 percent Filipino ownership.

In a hearing last Friday, Hiroyasu Yamaguchi, the Japanese chair of the board and treasurer of SMDC, claimed he divested his shares in Jan. 1.

The sinking of the tanker, which was carrying 2.1 million liters of oil, triggered one of the worst oil spills in the country, which continues to affect Guimaras and Iloilo provinces.

Marina naval architect Carlos Odi testified on Monday that the tanker’s agency-approved freeboard, which refers to the distance between the main deck of the vessel and the waterline, was within allowed limits.

He acknowledged the freeboard also allowed the tanker to carry a larger load and, thus, earn more revenue.

But the Marina-approved freeboard was lower than that specified by the private classification society Bureau Veritas, which inspected the tanker.

Asked during hearing what he thought was the effect of adding more cargo onboard the Solar I, Odi answered: “I think that is the revenue.”

He said that with the Marina-approved freeboard, the tanker could have a 98 percent load, whereas with the Bureau Veritas freeboard, the load was only 70 percent.

(For the full stories, click Marina and Indictment, Sept. 12, 2006.)

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