Prosecutors Drop Criminal Charges Against Crew of Bulker Vienna Wood
Philippine prosecutors have dropped all criminal charges against the crew and the owner of the bulker Vienna Wood N, which collided with and sank a fishing vessel off Mindoro earlier this year.
On the night of June 27-28, Vienna Wood collided with the 150-foot fishing vessel Liberty 5 off Mamburao, a community on the west coast of Mindoro. The Liberty 5 went down, and none of her 14 crewmembers were recovered. The Philippine Coast Guard alleged that there was a three-hour delay between the time of the incident and the time of a distress call from Vienna Wood.
After the casualty, Vienna Wood was escorted to the port of Batangas and detained, along with all 20 members of her crew, who were barred from leaving the country pending court proceedings. The Philippine Coast Guard soon filed criminal charges against the crew and the owner, including "reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and damage to property." The defendants included Greek shipping firm 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.
Last month, Nomikos Transworld Maritime reached a civil settlement with the families on what the Philippine Coast Guard described as "generous" terms. The settlement also includee a payment to Irma Trading, the Liberty 5's owner, for the value of the vessel.
At the time of the settlement, the agency promised "that it will continue to pursue the criminal case filed against MV Vienna Wood." However, PCG spokesman Armand Balilo confirmed Sunday that prosecutors have dropped the charges and the crew have been allowed to depart the country.
As of September 27, Vienna Wood was under way off Luzon, bound north for Shanghai.