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Aboitiz’s Superferry 9 Sinks Off Zambo; 86 Missing, 5 Deaths Confirmed

September 6, 2009

superferry mishap montage

Numerologists consider the number 8 and multiples of the digit lucky.

But this grey, rainy Sunday the numerical association is filled with grief because 15 hours ago as of this posting SuperFerry 9, one of the the inter-island passenger and cargo ships of Aboitiz Transport Service sank off the western coast of the Zamboanga peninsula for reasons unknown.

Coast Guard authorities and Aboitiz are now confirming 5 deaths so far plus 86 of the 847 passengers and 117 crew members missing.

With darkness starting to envelop the area, the search and rescue operations will likely slow while anxious relatives await the arrival tonight in Zamboanga City of the more than 800 rescued by two ships that managed to get to the scene minutes after the pre-dawn mishap.

sferry 9 1

To their credit the captain and crew of Superferry 9 appear to have responded well although there are indications some passengers panicked.

This is how Aboitiz is recapping what happened, and what is being done for the victims:

SuperFerry Official Advisory (as of 2:20pm) Date Posted: 9/6/2009
Author: Corporate Communications Desk   At 2:30am of September 6, 2009, SuperFerry9 reported that it was listing to the right in the vicinity of Batarompon Pt., West of Zamboanga Peninsula. The vessel was carrying 847 passengers, 117 crew members and 4 sea marshals for a total of 968 persons on board.

All passengers were told to put on life vests while the master tried to correct the list. When he determined that the list was irreversible, he ordered abandon ship and life rafts were launched. Crowd crisis control measures were conducted by the crew who assisted in the donning of life vests and in the manning of emergency crew stations. All the life raft stations were manned immediately.

The crew of SuperFerry and the marshals on board proceeded with the safety drills and helped with the evacuation of passengers. The crew were the last to depart the ship at 8:42am, when SuperFerry 9 tilted and sank. SuperFerry assured the relatives of the passengers that SuperFerry9 had enough life jackets and life boats for the passengers.

Upon receipt of SuperFerry’s distress call, The Phil. Navy and Coast Guard immediately dispatched their vessels in the area. A 2GO cargo ship, MV Myriad, and MV Ocean Integrity which were in the vicinity, immediately rushed to the area to assist in the rescue operations.

As of 1:12 pm, 880 persons have been rescued with three (3) fatalities. 88 persons remain to be accounted for.

Ongoing rescue operation is still being conducted for SuperFerry9 passengers and crew with onsite rescue vessels within the vicinity area. A total of 880 passengers and crew which includes 3 fatalities are now onboard the rescue vessels enroute to Zamboanga. Local Government Units as well as the Phil. National Red Cross have also been mobilized to search the coastal towns near the area for survivors.

Philippine Airforce has deployed two PAF helicopters and 1 OV-10 plane to assist in the search. Philippine Army has also deployed a helicopter. The US Air Force Military Assistance Group based in Zamboanga has just also deployed their helicopters to join the search. SuperFerry is very grateful for the assistance extended by the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Navy, Philippine and US Airforce, Philippine National Red Cross, and all private shipping operators who have been assisting in the rescue operations.

All rescued passengers and crew will be brought to Zamboanga port. SuperFerry has arranged for all required assistance such as medical, hotel accommodations, clothing, food and transport needs for the rescued passengers and crew. All injured passengers will be brought to the hospital immediately. Counseling will also be available for passengers who will need them.

Relatives of the passengers may get assistance from centers that have been set up in Manila, Iloilo and Zamboanga.

SuperFerry1 has been rerouted to pass by Zamboanga for passengers who would like to depart immediately for Manila and Iloilo. It is estimated to arrive in Zamboanga tonight. SuperFerry has also made arrangements for passengers who would prefer to fly to Manila.

SuperFerry has consulted oil experts from Shell Phils. who assured them that the fuel oil on board, which is of the heavy type of fuel, will most probably stay inside the fuel tanks of SuperFerry9. There is approximately 220 tons of this fuel onboard and in the unlikely event that this fuel should leak, SuperFerry has already hired Harbour Star to bring their oil booms and be prepared with chemical oil dispersants. The tug of Harbour star has already been dispatched. Philippine Coast Guard has also mobilized their buoy tender from Palawan with another oil boom and oil dispersants.

We will update you as soon as we get more information.

Thank you.

Signed: Jess Supan, VP for Safety and Security

This is the latest tragedy to hit the Philippines’ accident-prone inter-island shipping industry since last year’s sinking of Sulpicio Lines MV Princess of the Stars.

This new incident now involving Aboitiz Shipping is quite certain to trigger calls for yet more safety reforms in the industry, and a probe into possible human error contributing to the sinking of Superferry 9.

The cycle of sea tragedies continues.

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