Philippines charges bulk carrier crew over fatal collision

The Philippine authorities have filed charges against the captain and three officers of bulk carrier Happy Hiro (IMO 9303390), which collided with a fishing boat that had 20 people on board, seven of whom were missing, presumed dead. The 13 survivors suffered cuts and bruises, and one person had an injury on his head. They were retrieved from the water by another fishing boat in the area. The Happy Hiro than transported them towards shore, thence to a PCG vessel.

The Philippines Coast Guard reported that it had found only debris and no signs of the seven missing crewmembers from the fishing boat.

During a press briefing on June 1st the Philippine Coast Guard reported that it had completed an initial investigation and said that the authorities had decided to press charges again the officers of the Happy Hiro, a 32,600 dwt bulker registered in the Marshall Islands. The captain of the vessel, Croatian national Amir Meshay, the Romanian second officer Bogdan George Antonie, and two Filipino officers from the vessel were facing charges of “reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, multiple injuries, and damage to properties,” the Philippines Coast Guard reported.

The collision occurred on May 28th in a main shipping lane. The Happy Hiro was passing through the Philippines en route to Australia. An underwater examination of the vessel revealed scraps and marks which the PCG said was consistent with the ship having hit and sailed over the fishing boat.

The Coast Guard reported interviewing the surviving crewmembers as well as eyewitnesses from other vessels operating in the area. The fishing boat had experienced engine troubles earlier in the day and was anchored when crewmember aboard noticed the approaching vessel. They awakened other crewmembers aboard the fishing boat as the bulker approached.

The bulker was directed to proceed to an anchorage. The PCG said that interviews with crew and a review of the log indicated that the bulker was operating with only one officer on the bridge and that he would have had blind spots where he could not see objects in front of the vessel.

The Philippine Coast Guard, assisted by the Navy, has searched an area covering roughly 600 square miles, but bad weather had hampered the search.

The PCG has asked the court for an order to detain the bulker indefinitely pending an ongoing investigation by the PCG and the Maritime Industry Authority.

2006-built, Marshall Islands-flagged, 19,885 gt Happy Hiro is owned by Happy Shipping Ventures SA care of manager Tamar Ship Management Ltd of Hong Kong. ISM manager is Taylor Maritime HK of Hong Kong. It is entered with Standard Club (European Division) on behalf of Happy Shipping Ventures SA. No AIS since May 28th, when the vessel was en route from Taicang, China, to Kwinana, Australia, and was located west of Panay, Philippines.