As Marina inspectors started checking the ships, a fire struck the cargo bay of MV Trans-Asia II docked at pier 5 of the Cebu City port area yesterday morning.
The fire destroyed cargoes of rubber, carpets and soles but was quickly put out by responding crew from other vessels.
The fire was dismissed by Trans-Asia officials as having no bearing on the reinspections of their vessels.
However, the Coast Guard said their latest inspection on two ships showed some deficiencies that need to be corrected.
Rey Calooy, chairman of the Filipino-Cebuano Business Club whose members are micro, small and medium size traders in Metro Cebu, said their delivery of goods and products for Mindanao particularly in Cagayan de Oro were severely disrupted by the suspension.
With their Trans-Asia vessel servicing the Cagayan de Oro route grounded, Calooy said only one vessel from another company is plying the Cebu-Cagayan-Cebu route.
He said Mindanao is the food basket that provides vegetables, fruits and raw materials to Cebu.
“We’re hoping that the inspections won’t be delayed further because the suspension poses a huge impact on the local economy,” said Calooy, whose coffee and other shipments worth more than P100,000 were delayed in Iloilo.
He said he agreed with other shipping firms that called the order as “unfair” since it was done before a hearing was held.
Calooy said Marina’s suspension order should have been selective or implemented gradually to allow other vessels to sail.
Robert Go, former president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the Marina suspension order was unfair because it was imposed without adequate warning to shippers and suppliers who already booked their shipment.
“Businesses chose delivery by ships because it is cheaper. Trans-Asia’s suspension has affected deliveries since a lot of shipments had perishable goods,” Go said.
He said some routes were being serviced solely by Trans-Asia.
For her part, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia echoed the call of ship operators in Cebu to ask the Marina to reconsider its suspension order on Trans-Asia Shipping Lines Inc.
In a press conference yesterday at the Capitol, Governor Garcia said she finds the move of Marina “rather drastic.”
She said the suspension will affect a lot of passengers. Due process must be observed, Garcia said.
“If they are doing this to inspect, they could do this without necessarily suspending the vessels since especially they have already passed inspection. Just I believe, a few months earlier,” she said.
But Marina-7 information officer Jose Cabatingan said the suspension order was imposed to ensure the safety of the riding public.
He said the reinspection of three Trans-Asia vessels showed deficiencies that must be corrected by the management.
Following a second re-inspection, the Marina local office will recommend to either continue the suspension or lift it to their central office.
A fire that broke out in MV Trans Asia II was caused by a lighted cigarette butt thrown by a stevedore, the Coast Guard said.
Cebu District Coast Guard Commander Rolando Lizor Punzalan said the damage was minimal.
City Fire Marshal Aderson Comar said the damages were placed at P1,000.
Punzalan said the fire won’t influence the ongoing inspection of all Trans-Asia vessels done by the Marina.
Flordelito Ortiz Jr., head of Trans-Asia’s Safety and Security Department, said the MV Trans Asia II was supposed to leave for Ozamis last Monday but it was canceled for yesterday’s inspection.
Julian Sy Jr., management representative of Tran-Asia, said their estimates placed the damage at P5,000.
He said they will pay the cargo owners for the damages.
He said they have a strict no-smoking policy enforced in the vessel.
Sy said they will consider filing a case against the cargo contractor whose worker supposedly caused the fire after they reviewed the footage from their closed-circuit TV camera.
Sy said they hired a salvage crew to clean up the waters after they heard that oil had begun to leak out of the MV Asia Malaysia, which sank off the coast of Iloilo province last Sunday. /By Candeze Mongaya, Jhunnex Napallacan and Carmel Loise Matus with Correspondent Chito Aragon