Coast Guard cited for safe passage of some 80,000 vessels along Mactan Channel

Published October 10, 2020, 4:53 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

Cebu 1st District Rep. Eduardo “Eddie” Gullas cited Saturday, Oct. 10, the efforts of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to continuously ensure safe and orderly passage of some 80,000 vessels through the Mactan Channel annually.

The chairperson of the House Committee on Land Use said with the PCG’s installation of its Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS), it has reduced the risk of  ship collision disasters in the Mactan Channel.

“There’s no question that passenger as well as cargo vessels are now moving in and out of the Port of Cebu in a safer way owing to the PCG’s VTMS,” said Gullas, a former provincial governor, in a statement on the occasion of the PCG’s 119th founding anniversary on Oct. 10.

He explained that under such system, the movement of all ships navigating through the congested Mactan Channel is being electronically monitored. 

“The VTMS is basically an electronic traffic monitoring system for the safe course plotting of ships, similar to the air traffic control system for planes,” Gullas said.

“The system has also helped to provide information on the exact location of distressed ships within the coverage area, thus enabling the PCG to respond faster to emergencies,” he added. 

Gullas noted that the Mactan Channel was accident-prone before the PCG’s installation of the VTMS, which has a control center supported by three radar stations around the Mactan Channel, including one in Talisay.

He mentioned that the collision of ships was prevented after VTMS was installed in 2018, as the system involves the use of microwave data links, automatic identification system (AIS) base stations and very high frequency (VHF) radios and direction finders.

He recalled that in August 2013, at least 116 people were killed and 21 others went missing when the passenger ferry MV St. Thomas Aquinas collided with the  cargo ship MV Sulpicio Express Siete at the south entrance of the Mactan Channel, some 1.9 kilometers off the coast of Talisay City

The accident also spilled 160,000 liters of bunker fuel, diesel oil and lubricants that caused a massive environmental disaster, the House leader said.

After four years, another similar incident happened involving  SuperCat Fast Ferry Corp.’s MV St. Braquiel and San Miguel Corp.’s Barge No. 8.

Gullas said on Feb. 18, 2017, at least 49 passengers were injured when SuperCat Fast Ferry Corp.’s MV St. Braquiel collided with San Miguel Corp.’s Barge No. 8 along the Mactan Channel.

Under VTMS, each vessel approaching or navigating out of the Mactan Channel is being tracked by radar and AIS sensors –  the two leading methods of ship collision avoidance, the House leader noted.