Crew of Bulker Vienna Wood Held at Batangas as Homicide Case Proceeds

Vienna Wood N (file image courtesy Alf van Beem)

Published Jul 16, 2020 6:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

A Philippine court has placed a "hold departure order" on the crew of the Hong Kong-flagged bulker Vienna Wood N while a criminal case against her officers and her ship manager proceeds. All 20 crewmembers will be required to stay at Batangas Port until further notice.

The Philippine Coast Guard has filed criminal charges against the operator and the officers of the bulker Vienna Wood N, which collided with the Philippine fishing vessel Liberty 5 on June 27. The smaller vessel sank after the collision, and all 14 people on board remain missing. The Philippine Coast Guard contends that it did not receive any report about the collision until 0146 hours on June 28, nearly three and a half hours after the incident.

Search and retrieval efforts concluded on July 7, though the Philippine Coast Guard continues to monitor the area.

The charges filed include "reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and damage to property." The entities charged are Greek ship manager Nomikos Transworld Maritime; the Vienna Wood's master, Capt. Zhang Weiwei; deck officers Yang Xifeng, Yi Lei, and Shi Bin; and engineering officers Fan Qoujin, Xia Zhen and Wang Xingtu. All of the crewmembers in the case are Chinese nationals. 

The Philippine Coast Guard and the operator of the Liberty 5, Irma Fishing and Trading Co., petitioned the court to detain the defendants to ensure that they do not depart. Judge Ulysses Delgado of the regional court in Mamburao, Mindoro granted a request to detain the officers, then added a hold departure order for the rest of the crew, including 13 individuals who do not face charges, according to the Philippine Inquirer.

In a statement issued June 29, A.M Nomikos said that after the collision, the crew inspected the damage to find out if it affected Vienna Wood N’s own safety and stability. The ship then returned to the location of the collision, spotted the fishing vessel and reported it to the Philippine Coast Guard, the company said. The firm says that it is fully cooperating with the investigation. 

As of July 16, the Vienna Wood N remained anchored in Batangas Bay.