Captain and Officers of Bulker Charged with Homicide by Philippines
Philippine authorities announced today that they have filed charges against the captain and three officers from a bulk carrier that collided with a fishing boat. The charges came as the Coast Guard reported that it was moving into a search and recovery effort after finding only debris and no signs of the seven missing crewmembers from the fishing boat.
During a press briefing on June 1, the Philippine Coast Guard reported that it had completed an initial investigation and the authorities had decided to press charges again the officers of the Happy Hiro, a 32,600 dwt bulker registered in the Marshall Islands. The captain of the vessel, Amir Meshay, a citizen of Croatia, the second officer Bogdan George Antonie, a citizen of Romania, and two Filipino officers from the vessel were being arraigned in court. They face charges of “reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, multiple injuries, and damage to properties,” the Coast Guard reported.
The collision happened on May 28 in one of the main shipping lanes as the bulker was passing through the Philippines sailing to Australia. An underwater examination of the 580-foot vessel revealed scraps and marks consistent the Coast Guard said with the ship having hit and sailed over the fishing boat.
The Coast Guard reported interviewing the surviving crewmembers as well as eyewitnesses from other vessels operating in the area. The fishing boat had experienced engine troubles earlier in the day and was anchored when crewmember aboard noticed the approaching vessel. They awakened other crewmembers aboard the fishing boat as the bulker approached. The 13 survivors suffered cuts and bruises, and one person had an injury on his head, and were retrieved from the water by another fishing boat in the area.
The Happy Hiro transported the survivors toward shore and later transferred them to a Coast Guard vessel. The bulker was directed to proceed to an anchorage. The Coast Guard reports from interviews and a review of the log they determined the bulker was operating with only one officer on the bridge and that he would have had blind spots where he could not see objects in front of the vessel.
The Philippine Coast Guard assisted by the Navy has searched an area covering roughly 600 square miles but has been hampered by bad weather including heavy rain and huge waves. They found various pieces of debris believed to be from the fishing boat but no signs of the seven missing crewmembers.
They have also asked the court for an order to detain the bulker indefinitely pending an ongoing investigation with the Maritime Industry Authority.