MV Doña Paz
Doña Paz berthed at Tacloban City in 1984.
|Port of registry:||Kagoshima|
|Launched:||25 April 1963|
|Fate:||Sold to Sulpicio Lines|
|Port of registry:||Manila|
|Renamed:||Doña Paz in 1981|
|Refit:||After a fire onboard 5 June 1979|
|Fate:||Caught fire and sank after a collision with the MT Vector on 20 December 1987.|
|Class and type:||Passenger ferry|
|Length:||93.1 m (305 ft)|
|Beam:||13.6 m (45 ft)|
Part of a series on the
|History of the Philippines|
The MV Doña Paz was a Philippine-registered passenger ferry that sank after colliding with the oil tanker MT Vector on December 20, 1987. With an estimated death toll of 4,386 people and only 24 survivors, it remains the deadliest peacetime maritime disaster in history.
Doña Paz was traveling from Leyte island to the Philippine capital of Manila. The vessel was seriously overcrowded, with at least 2000 passengers not listed on the manifest. In addition, it was claimed that the ship carried no radio and that the life-jackets were locked away. But official blame was directed at the MT Vector, which was found to be unseaworthy, and operating without a license, lookout or qualified master.
The Doña Paz was built in 1963 by Onomichi Zosen of Onomichi, Hiroshima, Japan, and was originally named Himeyuri Maru. During the time it travelled the Japanese waters, it had a passenger capacity of 608 people. In 1975, it was sold to Sulpicio Lines, a Filipino operator of a fleet of passenger ferries. It was renamed by Sulpicio Lines as the Don Sulpicio, and later, the Doña Paz.
On 5 June 1979, while named the Don Sulpicio, the vessel was gutted by fire while en route from Manila to Cebu. All 1,164 on board were rescued but the vessel was beached and declared a constructive total loss. The wreck was repurchased from the underwriters by Sulpicio Lines, and the vessel was refurbished and returned to service as the Doña Paz.
On December 20, 1987, at 06:30, Philippine Standard Time, the Doña Paz left from Tacloban City, Leyte, for the City of Manila, with a stopover at Catbalogan City, Samar. The vessel was due in Manila at 04:00 the following day, and it was reported that it last made radio contact at around 20:00. However, subsequent reports indicated that the Doña Paz had no radio. At around 22:30, Philippine Standard Time, the ferry was situated at Dumali Point, along the Tablas Strait, near Marinduque. A survivor later said that the weather at sea that night was clear, but the sea was choppy. While most of the passengers slept, the Doña Paz collided with MT Vector, an oil tanker en route from Bataan to Masbate. The Vector was carrying 8,800 US barrels (1,050,000 l; 280,000 US gal; 230,000 imp gal) of gasoline and other petroleum products owned by Caltex Philippines.
Upon collision, the Vector's cargo ignited and caused a fire on the ship that spread onto the Doña Paz. Survivors recalled sensing the crash and an explosion, causing panic on the vessel. One of them, Paquito Osabel, recounted that the flames spread rapidly throughout the ship, and that the sea all around the ship itself was on fire. Another survivor claimed that the lights onboard had gone out minutes after the collision, that there were no life vests to be found on the Doña Paz, and that all of the crewmen were running around in panic with the other passengers and that none of the crew gave any orders nor made any attempt to organize the passengers. It was later said that the life jacket lockers had been locked. The survivors were forced to jump off the ship and swim among charred bodies in flaming waters around the ship, with some using suitcases as makeshift flotation devices. The Doña Paz sank within two hours of the collision, while the Vector sank within four hours. Both ships sank in about 545 meters (1,788 ft) of water in the shark-infested Tablas Strait.
Skippers, medics, and officers as well as the captain of a passing inter-island ship, M/S Don Claudio, witnessed the explosion of the two ships and after an hour, found the survivors of the Dona Paz. The officers of Don Claudio threw a net for the survivors to climb to. Doctors and nurses aboard the vessel tended to their injuries.
It reportedly took eight hours before Philippine maritime authorities learned of the accident, and another eight hours to organise search-and-rescue operations.
Only 26 survivors were retrieved from the water. Twenty-four of them were passengers from the Doña Paz while the other two were crewmen from the Vector's 13-man crew. None of the crew of the Doña Paz survived. Most of the survivors sustained burns from jumping into the flaming waters.
According to the initial announcement made by Sulpicio Lines, the official passenger manifest of the Doña Paz recorded 1,493 passengers and 59 crew members aboard. According to Sulpicio Lines, the ferry was able to carry 1,424 passengers. A revised manifest released on December 23, 1987, showed 1,583 passengers and 58 crew members on the Doña Paz, with 675 persons boarding the ferry in Tacloban City, and 908 coming on board in Catbalogan City. However, an anonymous official of Sulpicio Lines told UPI that, since it was the Christmas season, tickets were usually purchased illegally aboard the ship at a cheaper rate, and those passengers were not listed on the manifest. The same official added that holders of complimentary tickets and non-paying children below the age of four were likewise not listed on the manifest.
Survivors claimed that it was possible that the Doña Paz may have carried as many as 3,000 to 4,000 passengers. They took as signs that the ferry was overcrowded the fact that they saw passengers sleeping along corridors, on the boat decks, or on cots with three or four persons on them. Of the 21 bodies that had been recovered and identified as passengers on the ship five days after the accident, only one of the fatalities was listed on the official manifest. Of the 24 passengers who survived, only five were listed on the manifest.
On December 28, 1987, Representative Raul Daza of Northern Samar claimed that at least 2,000 passengers on board the Doña Paz were not on the ship's manifest. He based that figure on a list of names furnished by relatives and friends of missing people believed aboard the ferry, the names having been compiled by radio and television stations in Tacloban City. The names of these 2,000+ missing passengers were published in pages 29 to 31 of the December 29, 1987, edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
In February 1988 the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation stated, on the basis of interviews with relatives, that there were at least 3,099 passengers and 59 crew on board, giving 3,134 on-board fatalities.
In January 1999 a presidential task force report estimated, on the basis of court records and more than 4,100 settlement claims, that there were 4,341 passengers. Subtracting the 24 surviving passengers, and adding 58 crew gives 4,375 on-board fatalities. Adding the 11 dead from the Vector crew, the total becomes 4,386.
Survivors and their testimonies
24 passengers survived to tell the tale of what happened. Below are a few of those who survived and their testimonies
- Bacsal father and daughter - 43-year old fishmonger Salvador Bacsal and his 18-year old daughter Aludia were traveling to Manila for the Christmas holidays with their family. Aludia skipped her school's Christmas party to journey with her father, who booked tickets on that day itself. She recalled that the ship's overcrowding had been a giant factor of the loss of lives during the collision. Salvador recalled that the situation aboard was chaotic during mealtime. By night, he came from a restroom break and heard music, laughter, and dancing coming from the bridge, and he thought that the crew was having a party while the passengers, including those booked in first class slept. As his daughter was about to settle down for bed, they both saw the MT Vector heading towards the left of the ship wherein Salvador remarked that there would be an accident. Salvador told Aludia that they would jump overboard to the flaming waters and swam away from the ships' wreckage. They did so and were the first of the survivors to board the Don Claudio. Only aboard the Don Claudio did Salvador realize the injuries of his daughter.
- Philippine Constabulary Corporal - PNP Officer Luthgardo Niedo, then a 26-year old Philippine Constabulary and National Integrated Police corporal boarded the Dona Paz during the ship's stopover in Catbalogan along with his fellow officers and several military soldiers and police units, all in uniforms and bringing their weapons with luggage. Like many others, they were heading to the capital for Christmas with their families, while some were on re-assignment. The military and police units' names would not appear on the passenger manifest. Niedo recalled that the overcrowding was a big factor in the loss of lives. He also confirmed of the same party at the ship's bridge taking place minutes before the collision; a soldier colleague arrived from a snack break at a party and informed Niedo, who was sitting on a bench at the balcony, that he saw the ship's captain at the party. Niedo then told his colleague that he should not be much concerned of it because it is possible that the captain was relieved by a shift and that either a relief captain or a qualified officer was manning the controls. While the passengers on the upper deck slept, Niedo was staring at the sea from the deck's right side balcony when he heard the banging of steel followed by a power outage and noticed seconds later of flames engulfing the ship's stern along with an explosion from the engine room. As he jumped overboard and began swimming away, he also heard a second explosion from the engine room of the ship. Niedo is the only survivor of the soldiers who boarded. After the incident, Niedo vowed never to ride a ferry or a ship again as he feared may not be given a second chance to live and that he would opt to travel by plane whenever he goes to Manila or to some other part of the Philippines.
- Pedro Sorema - then 17 years old, Sorema boarded the Dona Paz without a ticket. He recalled the many paid their fare aboard the ship and that there was no proper counting as the crowd grew and overpopulated the ship. Sorema stated in the interview of the rules that before a person boards, staff members ask for tickets but later on, they said that anybody could simply board.
- The Three Friends - Almario Balanay, Generoso Batola, and Morris Ampura boarded Dona Paz at its origin in Leyte. The three were sleeping on the roof deck when they felt a jerk and heard a thunder-like bang. The trio were separated by the chaotic stampede as flames engulfed the ship. Each jumped overboard and swam away from the flames. The three friends later reunited at the MS Don Claudio. Ampura took care of Batola as he slept in the ship's medical ward. Balanay credits his family for his survival, stating that "they're the reasons I fought that night".
Reactions and aftermath
President Corazon Aquino described the accident as "a national tragedy of harrowing proportions...[the Filipino people's] sadness is all the more painful because the tragedy struck with the approach of Christmas". Pope John Paul II, Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita and Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom conveyed their official messages of condolence.
Sulpicio Lines announced three days after the accident that the Doña Paz was insured for ₱25,000,000 (about US$550,000 in 2011 dollars), and it was willing to indemnify the survivors the amount of ₱20,000 (US$472 in 2011) for each victim. Days later, hundreds of the victims' kin staged a mass rally at Rizal Park, demanding that the ship owners likewise indemnify the families of those not listed on the manifest, as well as to give a full accounting of the missing.
According to the initial investigation conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard, only one apprentice member of the crew of the Doña Paz was monitoring the bridge when the accident occurred. Other officers were either drinking beer or watching television in the crew's recreation quarters, while the ship's captain was watching a movie on his Betamax in his cabin. Nonetheless, subsequent inquiries revealed that the Vector was operating without a license, lookout or properly qualified master. The Board of Marine Inquiry eventually cleared Sulpicio Lines of fault in the accident. In 1999, the Supreme Court of the Philippines ruled that it was the owners of the Vector who were liable to indemnify the victims of the collision. Some of the claims pursued against either Sulpicio Lines or the owners of the Vector, such as those filed by the Cañezal family (who lost two members) and the Macasas family (who lost three members) were adjudicated by the Supreme Court, which found that even the families of victims who did not appear on the official manifest were entitled to indemnity. Caltex Philippines, which had chartered the Vector, was likewise cleared of financial liability.
In popular culture
- R.B.Haworth (2006). "Search results for "5415822"". Miramar Ship Index. Wellington, New Zealand. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
- Omar Acosta; Dave Veridiano & Marlen Ronquillo (1987-12-23). "Doña Paz Overloaded; Inquiry Set". Philippine Daily Inquirer.
- Hooke, Norman. Maritime Casualties, 1963-1996. Lloyd’s of London Press, 1997
- Caltex Philippines v. Sulpicio Lines, 374 Phil. 325 (Supreme Court of the Philippines 1999-09-30).
- "MSNBC World News/Asia Pacific". Retrieved 2009-08-08.
- Associated Press (1987-12-21). "1,500 Are Feared Lost as Two Ships Collide and Sink Near Philippines". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
- "Tanker Rams Ferry, 1,500 Feared Dead". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 1987-12-22.
- John Lancaster, Engineering catastrophes: causes and effects of major accidents. Woodhead Publishing, 2005, 3rd. ed., p. 71.
- Det Norske Veritas. "Annex 1: Passenger Vessel Evacuation Descriptions" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-12-13.
- Sheila Coronel (1987-12-22). "Searchers Find No Trace of 1,500 From 2 Ships Sunk in Philippines". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
- Omar Acosta; Dave Veridiano & Gerry Lirio (1987-12-24). "238 Bodies Washed Ashore in Mindoro". Philippine Daily Inquirer.
- Vector Shipping Corp. v. Macasa (Supreme Court of the Philippines 2008-07-21). Text
- Associated Press (1987-12-27). "Bodies of 133 Found From Ferry Disaster, The Filipinos Report". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
- "300 More Charred Victims Retrieved". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 1987-12-26.
- Ed Perpena & Dave Veridiano (1987-12-29). "2,000 On Ship Not On Manifest". Philippine Daily Inquirer.
- "3,159 people were on ‘Dona Paz’". Lloyd’s List. 1988-02-24.
- "Official ‘Dona Paz’ toll exceeds 4,300". Lloyd’s List. 1989-01-26.
- Howard Chua Eo & Nelly Sindayen (1988-01-04). "The Philippines Off Mindoro, a Night to Remember". Time. Archived from the original on December 9, 2007. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
- Barbara Crosette (1987-12-23). "It's Gloom And Glitter For Manila". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-24.
- Agence France Presse & Associated Press (1987-12-24). "Pope, Takeshita Send Condolences". Philippine Daily Inquirer.
- Agence France Presse (1987-12-23). "Sulpicio Willing to Pay Victims". Philippine Daily Inquirer.
- "Coast Guard Says: Dona Paz Officers Not at Their Posts". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 1987-12-25.
- Associated Press (1987-12-25). "Officers Were Not at Posts, Ship Disaster Survivor Says". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
- Dona Paz officers were not at posgs
- "Davao Titanic debuts today". Mindanao Times. 2009-08-25. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
- "Asia's Titanic". Retrieved 2009-09-06.
- Photograph of the MV Doña Paz (Courtesy of the Philippine Ship Spotters Society)
- DNV Annex 1 Passenger vessel Evacuation descriptions P36
- Mimar Ship Index - Ship ownership history
- Newsflash - Experts Cite Perils of Roll-Off, Roll-On (Ro-Ro) Ferries
- Sulpicio Lines vessels in major marine mishaps
- Hazardcards: Doña Paz
- To vαυάγιο του MV Doña Paz 20η Δεκεμβρίου του 1987