Origin Of Grounded Barge In Palau’s Southwest Islands Uncovered

admin's picture

Vessel from Indonesia continues to damage pristine environment

By Jose Rodriguez T. Senase

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, Oct. 28, 2014) – An official with the Sonsorol State Government said the giant barge that ran aground in Sonsorol State more than four months ago originated from the neighboring country of Indonesia.

The official, who requested anonymity as there is a pending lawsuit against the barge and its owners, said that they already knew where the barge originated.

"It is from Indonesia. In fact, the owners of the barge communicated with us indicating they wanted to talk with state and national government officials to settle the matter," said the official, who did not disclosed the exact port of origin or the name of the company which owned the barge.

"The fact that the owners wanted the barge back and their willingness to negotiate with the Palau Government regarding the matter indicate that the barge went off course accidentally and drifted towards Palau and was not abandoned by its owners," he added.

The country of origin of the barge "Ricky 300.5", which ran aground in one of the islands of Sonsorol in June 24, 2014 was a mystery for several months since its discovery.

There were speculations before that the barge was purposely left to drift by its owners. It was suspected before that the vessel could have come either from the Philippines or Indonesia.

The "Ricky 300.5" is the second such vessel from Indonesia that strayed into Palau in the past two years. Indonesia is located 2,468 kilometers southwest of Palau.

Last year, Asindo 02, a barge originating from Indonesia drifted here. But fortunately, it was discovered on time as it was drifting towards Angaur State and was towed away before it caused any damage. With a case pending against it, the barge was temporarily berthed at the Surangel Dock in Airai State.

Meanwhile, Sonsorol Governor Jacob Yangilmau, in an earlier interview, said the continuing presence of the giant vessel in the beach of Sonsorol Island constitutes a big threat to the pristine marine environment of the area.

The area where the barge ran aground is one of the most pristine places in Palau that abounds in marine life that includes fishes, sharks, sea turtles, and thousands of migratory birds.

Sonsorol Island, which is among the municipalities comprising Sonsorol State, is located several hundred kilometers from the main island of Koror. The island state has a population of more than 40 residents.

Yangilmau said the barge scraped through a wide area of corals and is inching closer towards land.

"There is a big possibility that it will cause more damage to the marine environment of the area. It could cause more destruction to the corals, plants and the habitats of birds, fishes, turtles, sharks and other marine life there" the Governor stressed.

As the removal of the vessel is beyond the capability of local salvage companies, Yangilmau went to the Philippines in August of this year to discuss with several salvage companies there regarding the possibility of moving the vessel to an area where it will not do any damage to the environment.

Yangilmau said that while in the Philippines, he talked with representatives of a company named Fahrenheit and several other firms that specialize in salvage operations.

The Sonsorol Governor also said that the State and National Governments have also asked the help of the United States (US) and other countries with the capability to remove the barge to a safer area.

The Palau Government has also initiated legal action against the barge and its owners.

The Palau Government filed at the Supreme Court on July 29, 2014 a Verified Complaint in Libel for Condemnation and Forfeiture against the Ricky 300.5 barge together with her tackle, apparel, furniture and equipment, and her duly registered owner, master person, company, corporation, charterer, party to a charter agreement, or other person in command of her, whoever they may be.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment