Shut Down Sulpicio Lines

It’s the only way to end this downright criminal enterprise and save lives.

I’ve previously written about the legal bases to hold Sulpicio Lines accountable for the hundreds of deaths caused by the sinking of the M/V Princess of the Stars.

But legal arguments side, there are even more compelling moral and practical reasons to put a stop to the murderous reign of what is believed to be the most accident-prone and negligent commercial shipping company of modern times. And I mean worldwide.

It’s hard to outdo Sulpicio Lines’ record, even in this age of massive global terrorism. One Sulpicio ship sinking alone, that of the M/V Dona Paz, claimed significantly more lives than the September 11, 2001 bombing that pulverized the New York World Trade Center.

And the 9/11 terrorists intended to kill as many as they could. Sulpicio Lines beat them without even trying.

Consider therefore the following reasons for sinking the whole company for good:

1. Riding Sulpicio Lines kills people — More than 5,000 people died taking Sulpicio Lines’ floating coffins over the past two decades, including the Dona Paz sinking, the worst peacetime maritime disaster in history. This was followed by three more catastrophic sinkings. At what point do we say, enough is enough ? When the death count reaches 10,000 ? 20,000 ?

2. Closing down Sulpicio Lines will be good for the whole industry — Putting an end to Sulpicio Lines’ killing spree will serve notice on the whole industry that no longer will their unsafe and greedy practices be tolerated. This will force all shipping firms with sub-standard ships, equipment and facilities to shape up or ship out (meaning disappear, not float again).

3. Sulpicio Lines is evil in its business practices – A high-minded argument against Sulpicio, using St. Thomas Aquinas’ classification of evil in human work (malum artificale). By evil in human work we mean a task carried out or work done in a defective way, with knowledge and deliberate intent. The continued service of an obsolete fleet, poor maintenance, non-observance of safety standards, hiring of incompetent personnel, overloading and a host other of other questionable practices intended to make as much money as possible at the expense of the riding public, are evil in a human undertaking.

4. Sulpicio Lines’ owners are guilty of a moral evil in their actions – An action is morally evil (malum morale) whenever man knowingly and freely deviates from what he is obliged to do as a human being. St. Thomas Aquinas believed that man has a basic inclination, arising from his rational nature, to do what is good and proper. Moral evil, or what we call sin, is a deliberate choice and adoption of a stand which goes against a fundamental code of human goodness. The ill-manner by which the company has dealt with the survivors and victims’ relatives, the lawsuits hurriedly filed to muddle the legal waters, the refusal to refloat the ship in order to collect more insurance, the finger-pointing (which did not spare God) and the general refusal of the owners to own up to their acts is morally evil.

As Malaya pointedly expressed in its editorial early on in the debate on how to deal with Sulpicio Lines, simply put them out of business:

Close down their shipping line. Send them to jail for criminal negligence. See to it they lose everything they own by holding them liable for billions in civil damages. That’s the only to make ship officers and owners learn they should not play with the lives of their passengers.

Accidents do happen. But Sulpicio Lines has had more passenger vessel sinkings than can be blamed on chance or misfortune. Either its vessels are not fit to ply the seas or the crews it hires are incompetent.

The shipping line should be stripped of its franchise. More, as we earlier said, people should go to jail and be punished where it hurts most — the pocket book, for those who care not a whit for the lives entrusted to their keeping as long as the money keeps coming.

We know where the faults lie. On greedy ship owners and regulators who are in their pockets. What has Gloria done during the last seven years to improve the shipping industry? Marina is packed with know-nothing political appointees. The Coast Guard is starved of funds to train its men, to install communication and monitoring systems, to buy more rescue vessels and to put up operating bases close to major sea lanes.

Throwing tantrums will not bring back those who died in the MV Princess tragedy. Neither would they prevent the loss of more lives in accidents to come. Only close regulation and upgrading of the shipping industry would.

8 thoughts on “Shut Down Sulpicio Lines”

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more.

    The buck must stop somewhere but it seems it’s being passed from one or the other.

    Gloria Macapagal Arroyo should have had the decency to turn down the request of the bishop on behalf of the Go family to operate again — not before having completed the investigations.

    Authorising the Go ships to sail on the mere request of a bishop is sending the wrong signals to the rest of the nation: that justice is not money blind! Just extraordinarily gobsmacking!

  2. I had to look that one up, ADB. Yes, it is astonishing and astounding, not to mention dismaying, that the Go ships may be allowed to sail on the request of a bishop. Arroyo should at least allow the investigation to arrive at some preliminary findings before even considering such a request.

    You’re in France for a break are you ? It must be an extraordinary event to have Betancourt return after her long captivity. The inevitable book on her experience will certainly fetch a tidy sum in advances. Have a safe trip, my friend. Don’t take any Sulpicio ships.

  3. Yes, I am or we are (whole family with the exception of biggest baby boy who’s doing his MBA internship with a firm in the US) and yes, Ingrid Betancourt’s return is quite a feat. I’d say that it’s caught France by storm because many almost didn’t believe that she would return home alive.

    I do think she’s an extremely brave woman — there are those of course who callously say that she was naive and some commenters in both the French and foreign press and blogs have gone as far as to say it was her fault that she was captured and detained by FARC.

    Here is a woman who could have just stayed put in France, lived the life of a wealthy socialite but no, she decided to put to good use her education, her connections to make a difference and went back to Colombia with an aim: to help eradicate poverty, misery and corruption in her “other” country. That’s a tall ambition but she tried.

    I think she deserves the all the kudos!

  4. STOP SULPICO LINES BUSINESS.they just want money.they dont care about others lives.thats why they let it go.and people stop saiyng its GOD WILL its not.its SULPICIO LINES WILL.they should have learned from the sinking of there other ships.owner of the ship should be punish not the pag-asa.weather can change in the blink of an eye people.use you little brain,work a little bit.its mother nature,HELOO!!!!!!!its not your family its mine.

  5. According to the latest news I have seen, “salvage” ops are set to begin on September 15 but for CARGO ONLY. I have been on a letter writing spree and here is one I sent yesterday indicating human rights violations for victims and families alike:
    I wrote to you several weeks ago looking for assistance or direction regarding a situation in the Philippines. My previous plea to you was that there is a family of U.S. citizens missing in the Philippines who were onboard the ill fated MV Princess of the Stars which capsized in typhoon Frank on June 21, 2008. Unfortunately, nearly three months later, the situation has deteriorated even further. The capsized ship remains partially submerged, fully intact and filled with hundreds of bodies. An entire family from Cincinnati, Ohio, including a mother, father, and two young children (an 8 year old and a 16 month old), remain unaccounted for and little or no action has been taken by the government or embassy in the Philippines. Our local senators have been made aware of the situation. In a recent appeal furthermore to the White House, family members had asked that the U.S. Embassy in Manila “ask the Philippine government to declare the site of the sinking as a crime scene to facilitate the recovery of bodies and serve justice where applicable. Copies were also sent to key U.S. congressional leaders and Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross. It is an outrage that any family should have to take such measures for over a month now to recover their loved ones from any set of circumstances, much less such a horrifically morbid tragedy. Sulpicio Lines, as of September 5, 2008 is now claiming salvage operations are set to begin on September 15, 2008 but for cargo only. They claim they do not have enough money to salvage anything else and will leave the boat abandoned and available to anyone who wants the scrap metal, which will leave the victims and there belongings out there like nothing more than roadkill. That is barbaric and should never be allowed to happen.
    Arroyo, et al, has been absolutely unwilling to step in to override the shipping company, Sulpicio Lines, believed to be responsible. Sulpicio and their insurance carrier have been given full control of the situation and have dragged their feet at every opportunity. Sulpicio Lines has been found administratively liable by the Philippine Board of Marine Inquiry, yet has not taken responsibility to recover the deceased, believed to be around 700 bodies. This is an enormous travesty of justice to the victims and their families, and a blatant disregard for human life in general regardless of citizenship. For their government not to intervene thereby prolonging the agony, makes this irreprehensible and possibly a crime in itself by retaining the remains of hundreds, including U.S. citizens, in a floating mausoleum. This is a mass grave and nobody has the decency to get the bodies out to return them to their families! If we found such a grave elsewhere in the world, there would be outrage and at least an effort to remove it. The media would at least be reporting the news. For our or any government not to involve itself in the situation to at least encourage prompt recovery of our people to have them returned to their surviving family members, would be disappointing to say the least. For the sake of humanity, my priority is to expedite the recovery of the bodies. All need to be removed, but my purpose in raising the awareness is to get our citizens recovered to bring this family closure, as I have seen their anguish first hand. ALL of the hundreds of families of the victims have a right to closure. At the very least, basic human rights.
    In this case, however, I feel the government, and of course Sulpicio Lines, has crossed the line into gross negligence and blatant disregard for human life, and in this case American lives. I do recognize that the U.S. initially sent the Reagan in to help, but it was kept at bay because of the nuclear capacity. Unfortunately, in turning away our ship, they also turned away cranes, air support, sonar, countless engineering aids, supplies, etc. and I do not know if our government was yet aware of our citizens who had been on the manifest My government would never leave a boat full of bodies and chemicals sit for any length of time. Certainly, whether it were a Carnival ship off of Bermuda or the U.S.S. Badger out in Lake Michigan, this would never be allowed to happen.
    Presently, I am appealing to anyone who will listen to at least raise awareness of this tragic situation that has no end in sight and no guidelines for resolution. Something needs to be done now. Incidentally, the same company has now killed nearly 5,000 human beings in their line of work, and are insisting they be allowed to keep sailing with people and cargo…

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