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Philippines Seize Japanese Coal Carrier After Loitering for Two Weeks

coal carrier
The vessel's captain admits he was told to delay his arrival but contends the vessel was never a danger to navigation (file photo)

Published May 9, 2024 6:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

The authorities in the Philippines are still trying to figure out what to do about a Japanese-managed coal carrier that they have been detaining for a week. A warrant for seizure and detention was issued on May 3 with the discussions ongoing on how to handle the incident.

The Ohshu Maru (92,000 dwt) is registered in Liberia and operates under charter to companies managed by NYK. The vessel was built in 2011 and operates as a coal carrier.

According to the information developed by the Philippines’ Bureau of Customs, the bulker was spotted idle in the southern Philippines around April 22. The ship failed to report in to the authorities within 24 hours to declare its intentions as required by law.  They are now also contending that the Philippine Coast Guard was unable to establish radio communication with the vessel.

On May 1, a team comprised of the Bureau of Customs’ Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service, the Philippine Navy, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency boarded the vessel. Under the suspicion of smuggling, they ordered the vessel searched. Pictures show dog teams on the vessel.

 

No contraband was found during the search (BoC)

 

The authorities admit that no contraband was found on the ship and it appears all its paperwork was in order. The captain offered an explanation reporting that the vessel was bound for the Japanese port of Kinuura when he was told by the charterer to find a safe place to drift in the Philippine Sea. He said he had been told to delay his arrival in Japan and issued a formal letter of apology to explain why his vessel was in Philippine waters.

The authorities however moved ahead with the action getting the warrant of seizure and detention on May 3. They are contending that a review of Vessel Tracking System records shows the Ohshu Maru turned off its AIS transmission while it was in Malaysia. They allege the vessel was without a signal, i.e. operating dark, for at least a day and eight hours before entering Philippine waters.

The crew of the bulker responds that they never endangered any other vessels in the area. They report the ship was never permitted to come close to other vessels in the area of the Bohol Sea where they were drifting.

The Philippine Bureau of Customs ordered that the vessel be moved to an anchorage on the northern side of Mindanao, where the ship remains. They also requested that the Navy and Coast Guard place the vessel under continuous monitoring. It is unclear what the law prescribes as the possible penalty for a foreign ship failing to register its arrival in the Philippines.