MANILA — Regardless of who is at fault in a collision incident at the high seas, vessels that sustained minimal or no damage are obliged to rescue mariners distressed or shipwrecked by the mishap.
This was bared by Philippine Navy (PN) flag-officer-in-command, Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, when sought for a comment on the incident which sank the F/B Gimver1 after a reported collision with a Chinese fishing vessel off Recto Bank last June 9.
He added that this rule is mandated by the seafarer’s conscience and an established part of the international maritime law.
Empedrad was referring to the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which stipulates that every signatory to the convention must require the master of a ship flying its flag to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost and to proceed to the rescue of persons in distress.
The same was stated by the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) sets out the obligation on ships’ masters to render assistance in they are in a position to provide help upon receiving information that there are people in danger in the high seas.
“(Helping distressed mariners) is also conscience base, why would you help people who are in danger of dying, what kind of people are you? I mean, regardless of who is to be blamed for the collision, especially in the event of a sinking, you have to help the people who are going to drown, it is the responsibility of everyone (to save distressed mariners),” Empedrad said in Filipino.
The Navy chief also said that he strongly supports the statement issued by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana condemning the incident and demanding that an investigation and diplomatic protest be made.
“We call for the conduct of a formal investigation on the matter and for diplomatic steps be taken to prevent a repeat of this incident,” Lorenzana said.
The FB Gimver1 was anchored at the time when it was hit by the Chinese fishing vessel.
“You can’t just hit a ship and then escape (and leave the crew in the water),” the PN chief added.
Also, the offending ship can be charged for possible violations of the “Rules of the Road” is also known as the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (COLREGs) which set rules for ships to prevent collisions between one or two vessels, Empedrad said. Priam Nepomuceno / PNA – northboundasia.com