Philippines to deploy ROV to locate sunken tanker

The Philippines Environment Ministry said on Monday that believed they had identified the approximate location of tanker Princess Empress (MMSI 548372700), which sank off a central province last week, and that a remote-operated vehicle (ROV) would be deployed to identify the exact location.

The authorities are in a race against time to assess the extent of the oil spill and to contain the potential for further environmental damage.

The 50m x 9m Princess Empress, which was launched in 2022, was thought to be lying at about 1,200ft depth, off Oriental Mindoro province, although though the information still needed to be verified, the ministry said.

Authorities want to know how much oil is inside, the best way to remove it, and also how best to stop any leaks. The vessel was carrying about 211,500 gallons of industrial fuel oil when it suffered engine trouble on February 28th in rough seas. All 20 crew members were rescued before it went down. The Princess Empress was not an international vessel, transferring fuel within the Philippines (IMN March 2nd).

Oil had been detected on the shore and in coastal waters near more than 60 villages close to the site where the vessel was thought to have sunk, the disaster agency said.

Marine scientists at the University of the Philippines said that about 36,000 hectares of coral reef, mangroves, and sea-grass were in potential danger of being affected by the oil slick. Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito Dolor said that the province would be seeking compensation for the damage and other expenses.

“Let me assure you, the damage done directly on the environment and on our people’s livelihood will be given corresponding compensation depending on what is stipulated in the compensation guidelines,” he told a briefing.

Also at the briefing were representatives of the tanker owner, RDC Reield Marine Services Inc, and contractors hired for the cleanup operations.

The tanker’s owner has contracted Harbor Star Shipping Services and Malayan Towage and Salvage Corp for the cleanup.

Rodrigo Bella, vice president of Harbor Star, told the media briefing that “the situation is very difficult…because of the weather. If sea conditions are bad, it is also unsafe for our contractors to work”.

Dolor said that the two contractors would shoulder all expenses initially, including paying residents hired for clean-up jobs,.

The national government has promised to hire locals under a scheme to assist those whose livelihood has been affected by temporary fishing and swimming bans in affected areas.