SuperFerry 9

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SFERRY 9.jpg
Name: SuperFerry 9
Owner: Aboitiz Transport System Corporation
Operator: SuperFerry
Port of registry: Manila, Philippines
Builder: Usuki Tekkosho of Saiki, Ōita, Japan
Yard number: 1328
Launched: November 4, 1986
Completed: July 1986
Acquired: 1995
In service: 1995–2009
Out of service: September 6, 2009
Fate: Sank at dawn on September 6, 2009, five hours after listing apparently due to rough seas (under investigation)
Status: Sunk off Zamboanga Peninsula
General characteristics
Class and type: Roll-on/roll-off ferry
Tonnage: 7,268 T
Length: 141.5 m (464 ft)
Beam: 23.0 m (75.5 ft)

SuperFerry 9 was a ferry owned by the Philippines-based carrier Aboitiz Transport System Corp (ATSC) and operated by their SuperFerry division.[1] About 9am Sunday September 6, 2009, she sank off the south-west coast of Zamboanga Peninsula with a total of 971 passengers and crew aboard.[2]

The ferry was travelling from the southern city of General Santos City to Iloilo City in the central Philippines and capsized on the other side of the peninsular from Zamboanga City.[3]

On Tuesday 8 September 2009 the last missing passenger was reported rescued and more up-to-date figures were provided by disaster response officials. The last survivor, a woman suffering serious injuries, was picked up by a passing fishing vessel shortly after the Superferry 9 sank on Sunday, the Office of Civil Defence in Manila said. On Monday, rescuers also plucked out from the sea another woman who had spent over 24 hours in the Sulu Sea with only her life vest to keep her afloat. "All 968 passengers and crew of the Superferry have now been accounted for, including nine fatalities", the civil defence office said.[4] The civil defence figures were corrected the following night by the ship owners.

As of 6pm Wednesday 9 September 2009, "961 crew members and passengers have been accounted for. Regretfully, there are 10 fatalities. 10 names in the official manifest cannot be physically matched but we also have 10 persons rescued and physically accounted for, whose names are not in the manifest".[5]


SuperFerry 9, a 7,268-ton[6] ship, was built in 1986 by Usuki Iron Works Ltd. at Saiki, Japan, and launched as the Ariake. It was converted in 1995 in Cebu City for William Lines Incorporated and was renamed Mabuhay 5. In 1996, the ship was renamed SuperFerry 9 and has been operated by Aboitiz Transport System Corp (ATSC) since that time.[7]

Ship history[edit]

Previous problems[edit]

SuperFerry 9 had encountered several mishaps prior to its sinking.[8]

In April 2006, the ship experienced repeated engine problems that caused passengers to be delayed a day and a half at sea while on a trip from Bacolod City to Manila's South Harbor.[9]

In February 2007, engine problems stranded her at Daog Point on Negros Island while en route to Iligan City from Bacolod City. She had to be towed back to port because of this mechanical failure.[8][10] As a result of this incident, the Maritime Industry Authority revoked the safety certificate for the vessel. The agency also ordered the ship's owner, Aboitiz, to keep the vessel in drydock and to perform appropriate repairs.[8][11]

On May 4, 2009 – about four months before the Zamboanga incident – the ship suffered from engine problems that caused 900 passengers to be stranded off Camiguin.[8][12]


On September 6, 2009, SuperFerry 9 sank off the southwest coast of Zamboanga peninsula with 971 people on board. The ferry was travelling from the southern city of General Santos to Iloilo City in the central Philippines and capsized approximately 150 kilometres from Zamboanga City.

Below is a timeline of events (all times local).

  • At 8:45 a.m. on September 5, 2009, SuperFerry 9 left General Santos City bound for Iloilo City.
  • Between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. on September 6, 2009, a distress signal was sent by Captain Jose Yap that the ship was listing to the starboard side. An hour later, he ordered the passengers to abandon ship.[13][14] Captain Yap was among those rescued in the disaster.
  • At 5:20 a.m. the MV Myriad, a cargo ship also owned by Aboitiz, arrived at the scene of the incident to render assistance. After an hour, half of the passengers had already been taken off SuperFerry 9 and had boarded several life rafts.[14]
  • According to regional military commander Major General Benjamin Dolorfino, about two hours later, two assault navy boats guided by two OV-10 bomber planes and two Huey helicopters arrived and began to pluck survivors from the ferry and the sea.[15]
  • SuperFerry 9 sank sometime around 9:00 a.m., almost five hours after the first distress call was sent.

Initially the Coast Guard reported that the ship developed generator problems as soon as she left for Iloilo.[14] According to Coast Guard chief Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, initial reports said that the generator of SuperFerry 9 fluctuated several times. Passengers had reported loud heavy crashing noises and suggested cargo containers had moved in the hold damaging the hull.

On September 7, 2009, a military pilot reported an oil slick in the area where SuperFerry 9 sank. A containment ship was dispatched to the area.[15] The vessel is believed to have settled on the seabed some 18 kilometres offshore at a depth of about 5000 metres.[4]

As a result of the sinking, MARINA issued a suspension order September 7, grounding the whole fleet of ATSC. The company, however, successfully contested the whole of fleet order.[16]

Naval assistance[edit]

At 4.50am Sunday 6 September 2009, Philippine Naval Forces Western Mindanao Commander RAdm Alexander Pama dispatched 2 Patrol Gunboats (Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas Mahusay, PG 116 under CDR Carlos Sabarre and Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas Dionisio Ojeda, PG 117 under LCdr Teofilo Pulmano) to SuperFerry 9. Around 5.30am Navy Chief Vice Admiral Ferdinand Golez directed all available floating and air assets in the area to be deployed. Two Multi-Purpose Attack Crafts (BA 482 & BA483) were dispatched for Search and Rescue (SAR) operations in the area. At daybreak, Navy Islander aircraft took off from Naval Forces Western Mindanao Headquarters to the SAR area. At 7.20 am the first government vessel, Navy Patrol Gunboat 116, arrived in the SAR area in Siocon Bay, Zamboanga del Norte. Navy PG 117 was second to arrive at around 7.45am. Two other naval vessels also quickly arrived.

Naval vessels began retrieval of passengers of the ill-fated ferry. As at 8.20am, around 115 passengers were already rescued by the four Navy vessels. Naval ad hoc task group Superferry 9 headed by on-scene officer CDR Sabarre was formed to integrate navy rescue efforts and coordinate efforts of other rescue agencies arriving in the area. Commander Sabarre reported that most rescued passengers were “very weak and needing urgent medical attention”. Drinking water was also scarce. Naval Forces Western Mindanao operations coordinated for the availability of medical personnel, water, first aid kits, and medicines.

At around 10am, PG 116 had rescued 120, including the Ship Captain and four officers of Superferry9. PG 117 had rescued 103, including 21 crew of ABS-CBN, with 1 casualty. BA 483 had 141, with 3 casualties, and BA 482 had 84. As at 11.20am, two Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats with one team each of Philippine Navy SEALs were dispatched to augment the rescue and retrieval teams already in the area. RAdm Alexander Pama, MGen Ben Dolorfino, Commanding General, Western Mindanao Command flew to the SAR area to personally assess the situation.

By 2pm, the Navy Contingent alone had rescued 444 passengers while 4 dead bodies had been retrieved. Passengers rescued or recovered by the navy were transferred to M/V Meriad which brought them to Zamboanga City by 1.30pm.[17]

Survivors, fatalities and assistance to victims[edit]

Some of the 10 dead had been identified as of midnight on September 7. The ship's owner, Aboitiz Transport System Corp (ATSC), immediately arranged for medical, accommodation, counselling, and transport assistance, for the passengers and crew of the sunken vessel.

On September 7, 2009, survivor Lita Casumlum was found by search parties some eight miles (thirteen kilometers) from the site of the sinking.[15] The last remaining passenger was brought to shore by fishing vessel on Tuesday 8 September, severely injured.[4]

SuperFerry 1 with 56 rescued passengers bound for Manila arrived at 2pm on September 9. As at 6pm Wednesday 9 September 2009, SuperFerry had already repatriated 760 rescued passengers and crew from rescue sites and Zamboanga city to their respective desired destinations. There were 62 rescued passengers who were scheduled to be repatriated the same day. 106 passengers were scheduled to be repatriated starting the following day. 23 rescued passengers were still being treated in various hospitals.[5]

The Philippine Government's Maritime Safety Office, MARINA, quickly announced that all passengers would be entitled to 50,000 pesos compensation as a result of the sinking. Embarrassingly, they later had to back down from this position because it was not supported by law.[5]


Official inquiries have commenced. Because of the location of the sunken vessel in the Sulu Sea, and its extreme depth of 5 kilometres below sea level, the inquiries will take months to complete, if they are conducted properly.

Unfortunately, the Philippines does not have a comprehensive Transport Safety Investigation Act, such as other countries in the region have. In addition, no authority in the Philippines is responsible for undertaking comprehensive investigations of all maritime accidents.

In the case of the SuperFerry 9 sinking, two separate authorities are reported to be conducting investigations into the sinking. The Philippine Coast Guard says it will conduct a Board of Marine Inquiry into the sinking.[18] The Maritime Industry Authority also says it will conduct an inquiry into the sinking.[19]

Whether one or both inquiries will be conducted, or whether either report will be comprehensive, remains to be seen. But given the Philippine government's prior history in this field,[20] any comprehensive report at international best practice standard is unlikely.

The inherent safety of Ro-Ro vessels has been called into question in a number of Maritime Inquiries, especially in Europe, over the last 10 years or more. If there was a possibility of a design flaw in SuperFerry9, or any subsequent alteration to the vessel which could have compromised the inherent safety of the vessel, the wreck will need to be physically examined by experts. If the wreck is not thoroughly examined and comprehensive reports provided on it to any inquiry into the sinking, then any such Maritime Inquiry will be fundamentally flawed.

Given the large number of Ro-Ro vessels engaged in ferry transportation in the Philippines, and the current government's enthusiasm for Ro-Ro vessels, the question of inherent stability and safety, especially in high seas such as the Philippines experiences frequently each year, is of vital interest and importance to the Filipino travelling public.


  1. ^ "About Us". SuperFerry. Archived from the original on August 18, 2009. Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  2. ^ Evangelista, Katherine (September 6, 2009). Dozens missing as ship sinks in Zambo. Philippine Daily Inquirer.
  3. ^ 88 missing after Philippine passenger ferry sinks. Xinhua. September 6, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Agence France-Presse 9/8/2009 4:54 AM GMT
  6. ^ Philippines: Tàu phà lật, 9 chết, 926 người được cứu. (in Vietnamese)
  7. ^ "Single Ship Report for "8517396"". Miramar Ship Index. Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  8. ^ a b c d "SuperFerry 9: No Stranger to danger". GMA News. 2009-09-06. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  9. ^ "SuperFerry 9 passengers finally arrive at South Harbor". GMA NewsTV. 2006-04-26. Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  10. ^ "SuperFerry stalls near Negros". GMA News. 2007-02-20. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  11. ^ "SuperFerry stalls near Negros". GMA News. 2007-02-21. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  12. ^ "SuperFerry ship with 900 passengers stranded off Camiguin". GMA News. 2009-04-05. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  13. ^ "Dozens missing as ship sinks in Zambo". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 2009-09-06. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  14. ^ a b c "9 dead, 926 rescued as ferry sinks off Zambo Peninsula". GMA News. 2009-09-06. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  15. ^ a b c Gomez, Jim (7 September 2009). "Philippine ferry survivor found at sea". Sun Journal. The Associated Press. Archived from the original on September 12, 2009. Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  16. ^ Alave, Kristine (2009-09-09). "Aboitiz contests suspension order". Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Princess of the Stars inquiries

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 7°28′N 121°54′E / 7.46°N 121.9°E / 7.46; 121.9