Philippines Coast Guard files charges in Vienna Wood N case

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has filed criminal charges against the operator and the officers of the bulker Vienna Wood N (IMO 9593713), which collided with Philippines fishing vessel Liberty 5 on June 27th (IMN, July 1st 2020). The smaller vessel sank after the collision, and all 14 people on board remained missing.

The owners of the Liberty 5 were reported to have filed a separate complaint against the crew of the Vienna Wood.

Vienna Wood N’s managers said that the vessel stopped and the crew conducted an emergency damage assessment. “The collision was reported soon after to Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), Manila.”

The crew inspected the damage sustained in order to ascertain if it compromised Vienna Wood N’s own safety and stability and then returned to the location of the collision to search for survivors. An overturned hull of what appeared to be a small vessel was spotted and reported to the Coast Guard. No survivors have been found.

The managers said that Vienna Wood N remained on scene until after the Philippines Coast Guard arrived and it was cleared to sail to a nearby port for surveys and repairs of the damages sustained. She was escorted by the Coast Guard to Batangas Bay, Philippines.

After an initial investigation, the PCG has registered charges of “reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and damage to property” with the prosecutor’s office for Occidental Mindoro. The prosecutor will make the final decision on whether to proceed with homicide charges.

The entities charged include Greek ship manager Nomikos Transworld Maritime; the master, Captain Zhang Weiwei; deck officers Yang Xifeng, Yi Lei, and Shi Bin; and engineering officers Fan Qoujin, Xia Zhen and Wang Xingtu. All of the crewmembers in the case are Chinese nationals.

The Philippine Coast Guard contends that it did not receive any report about the collision until 01:46 on June 28th, nearly three and a half hours after the incident. The message came in via email, not by VHF or GMDSS, according to the agency. The PCG lacks GMDSS receiving capability, and it might not have been able to pick up a VHF transmission in the area of the casualty either, PCG commandant Vice Admiral George Ursabia Jr said in a press conference on June 30th.

A M Nomikos said that the crew reported the casualty soon after they conducted an emergency damage assessment.

According to local reports the Vienna Wood N was currently undergoing repairs. Regional PCG head Cmdr Leovigildo Panopio told media that his office would ask the court to place a hold order on the officers to prevent them from leaving the country before the case is concluded.

2011-built, Hong Kong-flagged, 31,540 gt Vienna Wood is owned by Leo Navigation Inc care of manager AM Nomikos Transworld Maritime Agencies SA of Athens, Greece. It is entered with UK Club (Area Group Piraeus H1) on behalf of Leo Navigation Inc.