Second Freighter Sinks Off Philippines

Survivors aboard the Filipinas Butuan (Handout / Chester Cokialong / Cokialong Lines)

By MarEx 2017-01-18 21:23:07

On Tuesday night, the 3,500 dwt freighter Meridian Tres went down off Bohol, prompting a large-scale search and rescue mission. She was the second vessel to sink off the Philippines within a 24 hour period.

The 3,500 dwt freighter Meridian Tres had just departed Cebu City on a voyage to Leyte. Monday's forecast called for gale force winds, but the master, Captain Napoleon Emphasis, believed the vessel was capable of handling the weather. North of the island of Bohol the vessel encountered conditions that were more severe than Emphasis had expected. He attempted to alter course and head for sheltered waters off Canigao, but the Meridian's cargo of container vans shifted, leaving her with a port list of 40 degrees. Emphasis ordered abandon ship at 2100 hours, and the Meridian went down at about 2200 hours Tuesday. 

The merchant vessel Lorcol Iloilo reported the incident, and Coast Guard assets responded to the scene, assisted by the freighter Ocean Kingdom, the ro/pax Filipinas Butuan and the landing craft LCT PMI8. The responders found and rescued 28 members of the Meridian's crew, but one seafarer – identified as crane operator Benjamen Orola – remains missing. The survivors were all taken aboard the Filipinas Butuan, which carried them back to Cebu. 

The Coast Guard advised all vessels transiting in the area to be on the lookout for the missing seafarer, and to report any potential sightings to the nearest Coast Guard station. 

The 1998-built Meridian Tres was owned and operated by a Manila-based cargo forwarding firm. Her class was suspended in 2013 for non-compliance and again in 2016 for an overdue survey. She was detained in EU and North American ports for inspection deficiencies in 2013 and 2014, and AIS records show her trading in South and East Asia in recent years.

In a minor twist of fate, the responding vessel Ocean Kingdom made headlines earlier this month for repulsing a pirate attack off of Zamboanga, Mindanao.