Sec Mar Roxas grounds M/V Island Express Shipping vessels

DOTC SECRETARY MAR ROXAS
Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas yesterday ordered the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) to ground, effective immediately, all vessels being operated by Island Express Shipping in the wake of a fire that razed one of its vessels about 4.5 nautical miles South East of Lawis  Ledge Cebu City killing three persons Sunday.
The DOTC chief said the directive was meant to ensure that all vessels operated by Island Express Shipping are seaworthy.
At the same time, Roxas instructed the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to convene the Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) and to subject the owners and operators of Island Express Shipping to a thorough investigation to determine whether the shipping company or its crew was at fault.
Island Express Shipping has eight vessels, including one fastcraft and five RoRo vessels serving Hagnaya-Sta. Fe and Cebu-Tubigon routes.
“At this point, public safety is our primordial concern. I will not allow shipping companies to take chances with the lives of the passengers. DOTC will ensure that whenever a passenger steps on a ship, he can be certain that ship will have passed all the stringent requirements for safety,” he said.
Roxas also instructed the MARINA and PCG to ensure that the owners provide the survivors and the family of the casualties the assistance they need.
Reports from the Maritime Industry Authority and PCG said MV Island Express was on its way to Cebu from Tubigon, Bohol at about lunch  time at 4.5 nautical miles southeast of Lawis ledge Cebu City when the vessel caught fire.
Initial reports also said that allegedly, electrical wirings from the engine room caused the fire. Out of 75 persons in the manifest, a total of  72 were rescued and three were confirmed dead.  The survivors were brought to Tubigon hospital for treatment.
The names of the casualties are: Mrs. Matea P. Infiesto, 62 y/o and Nicetas N. Cabrera, 73 y/o, both female passengers from Lagsing, Bacani, Clarin Bohol and Chief mate Abelardo C. Torrevillas Sr., 57 y/o from Tagbilaran City.
Roxas also tasked the PCG to continue monitoring the situation for other damage and possible oil spill.
“Our job is to protect the safety of the public not to balance contending interests. The shipping companies have officers, lawyers, accountants and others; they can take care of themselves.  Our job is to protect the interest of the public whom we serve,” he said.