Natalie Paris, The Daily Telegraph, August 19, 2013
British holidaymakers have been warned not to travel by ferry in the Philippines following last week's disaster that has left 52 people dead and 68 others missing.
Serious concerns about maritime safety in the country have been raised after a MV Thomas Aquinas vessel, which was carrying 715 passengers and 116 crew members, collided with a cargo ship about a mile from Cebu, a port in the central Philippines, on Friday night.
Cebu is the hub city of the Visayas islands and ferry travel is a popular and cost-effective form of transport for holidaymakers wanting to go island-hopping in the region.
Patrol boats are still searching for survivors from the wreckage which lies around 30 metres underwater. It looks likely that a number of passengers, who had boarded the ferry near Butuan City, became trapped inside as the ship took on water.
Butuan City is in the south of the country, in an area that the Foreign Office already advises against all but essential travel to, due to the threat from terrorism.
The Foreign Office said: “Avoid travel on ferries if possible. Ferries are often overloaded, lack necessary lifesaving equipment, are not adequately maintained and have incomplete passenger manifests. Storms can develop quickly.”
Friday’s collision was not the first ferry accident in the country.
In 2009 at least six people died when the MV Baleno-9 sank, and in 2008, the MV Princess of the Stars capsized during a typhoon, killing nearly 800 people.
In 1998, The Princess of the Orient ferry sank off Batangas City, south of Manila, killing around 150 people.
The deadliest incident occurred in 1987, when the Dona Paz ferry collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro Island, leaving 4,300 dead in one of the world’s worst shipping disasters.
The Philippine archipelago is hit by around 20 tropical cyclones every year, making it one of the stormiest in the world.