Court prevents MV Vienna Wood crew from leaving to face criminal raps

Published July 15, 2020, 3:16 PM

by Betheena Kae Unite

A hold departure order has been issued by a local court to prevent all 20 crewmen of MV Vienna Wood from leaving the country while facing criminal complaints over its collision with sunken FV Liberty 5 last month.

This undated handout photo released by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on June 29, 2020 shows the Hong Kong registered cargo ship Vienna Wood anchored near Batangas City pier, after colliding with a local fishing boat off the coast of Occidental Mindoro province.
(Photo by Handout / Philippine coast Guard (PCG) / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

Commodore Armand Balilo, Philippine Coast Guard spokesman, said Wednesday that presiding Judge Ulysses Delgado of Regional Trial Court Branch 44 in Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro granted the precautionary hold departure order filed against the 20 crewmen of the Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier.

While only seven of the crewmen were included in the criminal complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and damage to property, which was filed on July 6, the hold departure order (HDO) covered all crewmen and officers of the foreign vessel.

According to Balilo, the Coast Guard legal team impleaded only seven crewmen for the HDO but Irma Fishing and Trading Incorporated, owner of the sunken FV Liberty 5, filed an HDO for 20 crew members of MV Vienna Wood.

“The court consolidated the petition and granted an HDO for the 20 crew members of the MV Vienna,” the Coast Guard said Wednesday afternoon.

Nomikos Transworld Maritime’s Zhang Wei Wei, the ship captain; Shi Bin, third officer; Yang Xifeng, chief officer; Yi Lie, second officer; Fan Qoujin; Xia Zhen; and Wang Xingtu are facing criminal complaints. 

Australia-bound MV Vienna Wood collided with FV Liberty 5, which was on its way to Navotas, off Mamburao on the night of June 27 due to poor visibility caused by heavy downpour in the area and rough seas.

Findings showed that FV Liberty 5 took successive hits from the bulk carrier before it capsized and eventually sank 2,000 meters deep in the ocean. No one from the 14 fishermen onboard the ill-fated boat survived.

Investigators also found out that MV Vienna Wood stayed in the collision area after the incident but failed to launch its own rescue operation for the fishermen despite being well-equipped.

The captain of the foreign cargo vessel admitted not launching help for the fishermen due to poor visibility and rough seas but denied committing a hit-and-run. They only maneuvered away from the capsized boat to maintain a safe distance so as not to further endanger the boat and other small vessels in the vicinity.

 Search and retrieval operations were already suspended on July 8, after 10 days of sea and aerial search missions.

Vice Admiral George Ursabia, Coast Guard commandant, vowed that “no matter how long it takes, we won’t drop the case” against the foreign ship.