MANILA — A Panamanian cargo vessel was detained and put under investigation for allegedly declaring false information on its port clearance and its recent port call in China.
In a message to reporters Friday, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson, Commodore Armando Balilo, said cargo vessel “MV Harmony 6” is now anchored at Poro Point in La Union and temporarily detained under orders of PCG Commandant, Admiral Joel Garcia while a probe is ongoing.
Initial reports said the vessel arrived at Changzhou, China on February 13 and left the country, which is still reeling from the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak, on February 18.
A day after it left China, Balilo said the vessel’s crew allegedly turned off its Automatic Identification System (AIS) until its arrival on Philippine waters on February 23 — which prevented the ship from being tracked in real-time.
PCG communications officer Joy Dianne Gumatay said after the vessel reactivated its AIS, the PCG and the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC) probed its sudden appearance in the country’s waters and found that it recently came from China.
“Nung binuksan ng MV Harmony 6 ‘yung AIS niya pagdating nila sa Pilipinas, saka lang ito na-monitor ng PCG and NCWC (When MV Harmony 6 reactivated its AIS during its arrival in the Philippines, it was only then monitored by the PCG and NCWC),” Gumatay said in a message.
The AIS is an automatic tracking device installed on maritime vessels and is used to track its location along with the date and time it reached the location.
During its arrival, Balilo said the ship’s captain, Captain Luu Van Loi — a Vietnamese national — declared that it left China on February 10 instead of February 18 to “fit into the 14-day quarantine period being strictly implemented in all major ports in the country as a security measure against Covid-19.”
Due to the “misrepresentation” committed by its captain, a team from the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) boarded the vessel to conduct a health inspection among its 18 Vietnamese and five Indian crew six days following its arrival in the country, instead of the required 14-day quarantine period, he said.
The ship was detained and put under investigation after the PCG and NCWC alerted the port state control group in La Union on the alleged misrepresentation and deactivation of the ship’s AIS, a few hours after the BOQ’s inspection of its crew.
He said the PCG will coordinate with the BOQ to identify possible criminal charges against MV Harmony 6 once it is found guilty of violations.
Meanwhile, PCG Chief of Operations, Rear Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan said the PCG continues to exert all efforts on maritime safety and security, especially in ensuring strict implementation of guidelines and preventive measures against Covid-19. Raymond Carl Dela Cruz /PNA – northboundasia.com