Sulpicio Lines asks court to stop BMI investigation into 'Princess of the Stars' disaster

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Philippine shipping company Sulpicio Lines has asked a court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) from proceeding with its investigation into the loss of MV Princess of the Stars. The passenger ferry capsised and sank off Sibuyan island on June 21 during Typhoon Fengshen (known locally as Typhhon Frank) with hundreds of casualties.

Sulpicio told the Manila Regional Trial Court that both Republic Act 9295 and the Domestic Shipping Development Act of 2004 removed the BMI's power to investigate maritime incidents and that the investigation the board launched on June 25 is "irregular, illegal, and null and void". They say only the Maritime Industry Authority is allowed to investigate accidents at sea.

Sulpicio also described the investigation as an 'inquisition' that was biased against Sulpicio from the start. They say "prejudgment" has increased the "pervasive negative publicity" surrounding the line, since negative accusations are most often published in newspapers. The company says one comment the board made was "Your vessel is not stable!" "You have no business being a safety officer!"

As a result Sulpicio is seeking 650,000 from the BMI. This is split down as ₱500,000 in moral damages, ₱100,000 lawyer's fees and ₱50,000 further costs.

The House Committee on Transportation also launched its own inquiry into the disaster today. The case for the TRO will be heard tomorrow.