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MT PRINCESS EMPRESS
INCIDENT INFORMATION CENTRE

IMO No. 9985136

INCIDENT OVERVIEW

Whilst on voyage to Iloilo from Limay, Bataan, the 1143 tonnes dwt tanker Princess Empress encountered adverse weather conditions off the Coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines, on February 28 at approximately 2 am. With the vessel rolling, pitching and taking on water, the Captain made the prudent decision to abandon ship before the Princess Empress sank. 

The ship is believed to be at a depth of 400 meters Northeast of Pola, Oriental Mindoro, although the wreck could have moved in the tide/weather.

Thankfully all 20 crew were rescued by a passing general cargo vessel, the MV Efes and have since been medically assessed and released with no reports of any injuries.

When reports of the vessel in distress were received, a tug with oil spill response capabilities was mobilised to the scene arriving on March 1. Shortly after, another tug joined it with further supplies, equipment and response personnel. These response tugs continue working with the Philippine Coast Guard on at-sea containment, recovery and storage of the recovered oil. 

Ashore, international oil spill experts from ITOPF are providing technical advice to all parties, including the Philippine Coast Guard, key government departments such as DENR, central government, local authorities and onsite Contractors, the P&I Club and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC) Funds, to ensure a unified approach.

In addition, the specialist French oil spill response company, Le Floch Depollution (LFD), were retained and is mobilising local assets and personnel, deploying necessary resources within the Philippines and importing needed equipment from overseas.

RDC Reield Marine Services, as owners of the tanker Princess Empress, will continue to work closely with the Philippine government, the Philippine Coast Guard, local government representatives, international oil spill experts and contracted responders to minimise the impact of oil cargo that has leaked from the sunken vessel.

VESSEL DETAILS

VESSEL NAME

MT Princess Empress

IMO NO.

9985136

VESSEL TYPE

Tanker

FLAG

Philippines

YEAR OF BUILD

2022

GROSS TONNAGE

508

DEADWEIGHT TONNAGE

1,143

Image by Matt Hardy

LATEST PRESS STATEMENTS

UPDATE – MANILA, JUNE 02, 2023

This statement was released by the Shipowners P&I Club, insurers of the Princess Empress, and by the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds.

The collection of claims continues along the affected shorelines of Oriental Mindoro and the islands of Liwagao and Semirara. The Claims Submission Office has mobilised several teams on the ground to assist claimants and collect claims forms. We would like to thank claimants for their patience as well as mayors and barangay captains for allowing the teams to set up claims collection centres in their areas. 

To date, the Claims Submission Office has collected over 8,000 claims from individuals involved in the fisheries and tourism sectors across Oriental Mindoro, Liwagao and Semirara. The Claims Submission Office, via its claims processors, have visited six municipalities (San Teodoro, Baco, Calapan, Naujan, Pinamalayan and Bansud) and 31 barangays (this number excludes barangays from Calapan). Visits are scheduled in the remaining barangays of Naujan the week commencing 5th June (Estrella, Nag-Iba II and San Antonio). A claims collection centre will be set up in the municipality of Pola from 14th June. During the course of June, teams will also set up in the remaining municipalities of Gloria, Bongabong, Roxas, Mansalay and Bulalacao. 

We are also pleased to inform that the IOPC Funds, together with the Shipowners’ Club and their joint experts, are considering interim payments of claimants and are trying to find ways to speed up a preliminary assessment of losses in order to be able to make provisional payments in respect of claims received so far. It should however be noted that the 1992 Fund can only deal with claims for compensation in accordance with the 1992 Civil Liability Convention and the 1992 Fund Convention, both of which apply to the Princess Empress incident. Claims under those conventions are dealt with in accordance with the 1992 Fund Claims Manual, which contains the criteria for admissibility of claims agreed by Member States of the IOPC Funds, including the Philippines, https://iopcfunds.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/2019-Claims-Manual_e-2.pdf. Claimants eligible for an interim payment of compensation will be informed in due course. 

We would like to emphasise that the claims process is conducted in a transparent manner and in accordance with the above conventions and international admissibility criteria. Anyone who has suffered a loss or incurred costs as a result of the pollution damage caused by the Princess Empress incident is entitled to make a claim. However, all claimants are required to demonstrate and prove their loss. The claims forms have been designed by the Shipowners’ Club and the IOPC Funds to guide claimants as much as possible as to the information that should be given in support of their claim. They include checklists of possible requirements to attach in support of their claim, as well as reference tables to compute their loss. Please note that all elements of proof are considered, but sufficient evidence must be provided to give the shipowner, the insurer and the 1992 Fund the possibility of making their own judgement as to the claimed losses. It is also recognised that each claim has its own particular characteristics and each claim will therefore be considered on the basis of its own merits. The criteria therefore allow for some degree of flexibility, depending on the particular circumstances of the claimant, in respect of the requirement to present documents. 

We also wish to point out that neither the Claims Submission Office, its claims processors collecting claims on the ground, nor the Shipowners’ Club or the IOPC Funds have made any payments to claimants as of this date nor have they requested claimants to sign any waivers giving up their rights to file a claim. When claimants complete their claim form, they are required to sign a declaration that their claim is a true reflection of their losses (fraudulent claims will be treated very seriously) and that the information included in their form can be processed and shared with experts jointly appointed by the Shipowners’ Club and the IOPC Funds in order to provide an assessment of the claim. We wish to reiterate that claimants should refrain from signing any documents that have not been issued by the Shipowners’ Club or the IOPC Funds and to only submit their claims to the Claims Submission Office via their claims processors or by post and email.

Claim processors distributing forms and advising claimants in barangay Papandayan, Pinamalayan

UPDATE – MANILA, JUNE 02, 2023

RDC Reield Marine Services, owners of the sunken tanker Princess Empress, can confirm that the oil extraction operations have commenced. The sunken tanker is located seven nautical miles off the coast of Oriental Mindoro in the Philippines.

The Dive Support Vessel Fire Opal arrived at the wreck site on Monday, May 29, deploying two ROVs (remotely operated underwater vehicles) to survey the current situation of the wreck before proceeding with the extraction plan.

ROV being deployed off DSV

 

Initial dives by the ROVs focused on clearing debris and gaining access to the necessary extraction points to enable the removal of the residual oil. 

Once the clearing works are completed, the extraction process will begin. The operation is expected to take three to four weeks, depending on the prevailing weather conditions. 

Meanwhile, the daily spill containment by Malayan Towage and Salvage (MTSC) under the guidance of the Philippine Coast Guard continues, with the deployment of booms, skimmers and scoops for oil recovery on the sea surface to minimise any further impact on the environment.

Ashore high-volume flushing operations and manual collection of oil-affected debris continue on Semirara Island with manual scraping, brushing & wiping operations, pebble cleaning with concrete mixers, collection of oily debris and high-volume flushing ongoing in certain barangays in Oriental Mindoro. 

RDC Reield Marine Service and our contractors remain committed to the unified approach to clean-up operations with the Philippine government, the Philippine Coast Guard and local government representatives.

UPDATE – MANILA, MAY 19, 2023

RDC Reield Marine Services, owners of the sunken tanker Princess Empress, report that there have been no reports of new oiling in Oriental Mindoro or Semirara, including previously affected areas that have already been cleaned. 

Shoreline clean-up continues in five barangays in Oriental Mindoro with manual scraping, brushing & wiping operations, pebble cleaning with concrete mixers, collection of oily debris and high-volume flushing. To ensure the most effective use of materials, contractors also recycle previously used sorbent booms and pillows and construct new booms for further deployment.

Manual recycling of sorbent booms and pillows

Deployment of recycled booms

In Semirara, clean-up operations have ramped up, with over 300 contractors deployed daily. Manual collection of oil-affected waste and high-pressure washing continues with concentrated high-volume flushing operations and scooping, drawing oil out from impacted sandy areas.

Removal of residual oil through flushing

The at-sea response is ongoing, with daily spill containment by contractors and the Philippine Coast Guard. The deployment of booms, skimmers and scoops for oil recovery on the sea surface continues ahead of the upcoming extraction of the remaining oil cargo from the wreck.

 

The unified approach to clean-up operations with the Philippine government, the Philippine Coast Guard and local government representatives continues.

UPDATE – MANILA, MAY 10, 2023

RDC Reield Marine Services, owners of the sunken tanker Princess Empress, can confirm that the Malayan Towage and Salvage Corporation have been engaged to extract the remaining oil cargo from the wreck.

MTSC will deploy specialised Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles (ROVs) to reach the wreck of the Princess Empress at a depth of 398 meters off Mindoro and implement the extraction process.

Throughout the oil extraction process, MTSC tugs will remain at work with daily spill containment and oil recovery through booms, skimmers and scoops in conjunction with the Philippine Coast Guard.

Further information about the timing and the operational methods for the extraction operation will be provided as they become available.

UPDATE – MANILA, MAY 08, 2023

This statement was released by the Shipowners P&I Club, insurers of the Princess Empress, and by the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds.

The Claims Submission Office (CSO) is presently covering the municipalities of Baco, Calapan, Naujan and Pinamalayan. Please find below further details regarding each municipality. We would like to thank the municipalities and barangays who have kindly assisted the CSO to set up claims collection centres in their areas. Each municipality should have received an official letter, in writing or in person, requesting the authorisation to proceed with the set up of claims collection centres. Municipalities are invited to contact the CSO at CSO_PE@iopcfundsclaims.org if they haven’t heard anything.   

 

We would like to remind the public that the CSO, via its Claims Processors, is the only authorised and competent body to collect and process claims. 

 

Finally, claimants should note that all claims collection centres have printers available to make copies of the requirements (IDs, permits, etc.). Claimants may bring their requirements in original form and Claims Processors will make a copy of the document to attach to your claim. Please consult our Frequently Asked Questions for further information regarding the claims process by clicking here.


Thank you for your continued cooperation and patience.

Claims collection in barangay Santa Cruz, Naujan

 

Baco

A claims collection centre was set up in the barangay of Tabon-Tabon on May 1st. The CSO intends to continue to process claims in barangay San Andres (May 5 to May 9), barangay Pimisan (May 10 to May 15), barangay Malapad including barangay Catuwiran Uno & Does (May 16 to 20), barangay Water including Lumang Byana & Sta Cruz (May 29 to June 03).

 

Calapan

Claims Processors remain available at the Capitol, provincial office, Calapan City. 

 

Naujan

Following the visit to the barangays of Herrera and Masaguing, a claims collection centre was set up in barangay Santa Cruz on May 1. Claims have also been collected in Melgar.

 

Pinamalayan

Claims have been collected by Claims Processors in the barangays of Banilad, Ranzo. The CSO intends to continue to process claims in other barangays including Guinhawa and Pili. 

 

N.B. The CSO is scheduled to visit the islands of Liwagao and Semirara from the middle of May. 

UPDATE – MANILA, MAY 04, 2023

RDC Reield Marine Services, owners of the sunken tanker Princess Empress, are pleased to report that joint shoreline surveys across affected areas of Oriental Mindoro have shown that the oil spill response in some areas is no longer required, with previously affected areas requiring no further clean-up.

The Joint shoreline surveys (SCAT surveys) undertaken by representatives from various authorities, international experts and clean-up contractors signed off areas previously affected in Pola, Oriental Mindoro, as requiring no further treatment. Monitoring for new oiling will continue in these cleared areas, with small teams of workers to be redeployed if new oiling impacts.

Equipment and personnel from barangays signed off as cleared by SCAT survey teams have since been redeployed to other affected areas, resulting in a speeding up of the clean-up operations across Oriental Mindoro. 

 

In Semirara, the clean-up is also progressing well, with more contractors working on the ground than ever before. Ongoing work includes the manual collection of oil waste and cleaning of mangrove roots, high-pressure cleaning of oiled woods and coconuts and the transfer of waste to designated storage facilities.

Manual removal of oil waste and cleaning of mangrove roots with absorbent pads.

 

The significant response at sea is being maintained, with daily spill containment and oil recovery on the sea surface through booms, skimmers and scoops in conjunction with the Philippine Coast Guard. Tugs have ceased their morning along-shore surveys to maximise containment and recovery time as it surfaces from the wreck.

RDC Reield Marine Services, supported by ITOPF, will continue to mobilise international oil spill experts, contracted responders and assets in a unified approach with the Philippine government, the Philippine Coast Guard and local government representatives until an agreed end to the clean-up operations. 

UPDATE – MANILA, APRIL 26, 2023

RDC Reield Marine Services, owners of the sunken tanker Princess Empress, report that the containment, preventative and cleanup efforts at sea and across affected shorelines in Oriental Mindoro and Semirara are having a positive effect.

The general fishing ban has been lifted for Semirara and Liwagao, with limited restrictions remaining for fish collection on the shoreline and shallow waters of the most impacted areas.

In Oriental Mindoro, the ongoing local manufacturing and deployment of sorbent booms are helping to ensure that already cleaned areas remain free of any further impact from the spill. 

The manufacture and deployment of sorbent booms

The shoreline cleanup continues with the manual collection of tarballs and high-volume flushing and high-pressure washing operations of the already identified affected coastline. As of 17th April, working hours for shoreline workers have been extended to 6 hours per day.At sea, crews work daily with the Philippine Coast Guard on spill containment and oil recovery on the sea surface through booms, skimmers and scoops.

The specially constructed storage areas are now safely holding a significant amount of recovered oil and waste awaiting transferral to approved waste disposal facilities by barge.

Safe storage of recovered oil and waste

 

RDC Reield Marine Services remains committed to the oil spill response. Supported by ITOPF, we continue to mobilise international oil spill experts and contracted responders in a unified approach with the Philippine government, the Philippine Coast Guard and local government representatives. 

UPDATE – MANILA, APRIL 21, 2023

This statement was released by the Shipowners P&I Club, insurers of the Princess Empress, and by the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds.

The International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC Funds) and the Shipowners P&I Club are pleased to announce that the operations of the Claims Submission Office (CSO) have expanded with the opening of a new centre in barangay Banilad, Pinamalayan, on Friday 14th April. 

Public lodging their claims in Barangay Banilad, Pinamalayan

The CSO’s mobile team has also been organising the collection of claims in barangay Masaguing in the municipality of Naujan since Tuesday 18th, April. The CSO will continue to extend the collection of claims to other affected barangays and municipalities. The CSO is involved in regular dialogue with barangay captains from the affected municipalities to accommodate the submission of claims. Claimants should approach their barangay captains for more information regarding the schedule of visits. 

 

For further information regarding the incident, the claims process and the forms, please visit the IOPC Funds’ website IOPC FUNDS | Home or the claims section at https://www.princessempressinformationcentre.com/

UPDATE – MANILA, APRIL 14, 2023

RDC Reield Marine Services, owners of the sunken tanker Princess Empress, report that as part of the wide-ranging oil spill response efforts that continue across the affected areas, concrete mixers have now been deployed to assist with the cleaning of pebbles and cobbles stained with oil.

Transport of mixers by boat to work sites

Trained contractors at work with the mixers

 

Crews of local contractors have been trained in the safe operation of the concrete mixers, which will complement the ongoing high-volume flushing and high-pressure washing operations and manual brushing and wiping of cobbles and collection of tarballs.

 

UPDATE – MANILA, APRIL 11, 2023

RDC Reield Marine Services, owners of the sunken tanker Princess Empress, report that the oil spill response work continues across the affected areas in Oriental Mindoro, Semirara and the at-sea response.

Shoreline cleanup activities are progressing across impacted barangays in Oriental Mindoro with oversight by experts from the United States Coast Guard and US Navy. Response crews are combing targeted areas of concern for the manual collection of tarballs and oiled debris whilst high-volume flushing and high-pressure washing operations are ongoing along the rocky shorelines. In parallel with the cleanup efforts is the maintenance and replacement of booms by work crews as ongoing preventative measures against secondary oiling.

Manual collection of Tarballs

High-pressure washing of rocky shoreline

 

In Semirara, shoreline cleanup through manual collection and high-pressure washing also continues. There’s also been significant progress on transferring the large amount of already collected waste from the beach areas to primary storage areas to ensure safe storage and limit secondary contamination.

We are maintaining a significant presence in the response at sea, with spill containment and oil recovery on the sea surface through booms, skimmers and scoops in a joint response with the Philippine Coast Guard. Satellite imagery and reports from the at-sea responders continue to show a south-westward movement of oil from the wreck site. Experts are tracking this movement of oil and using the data to coordinate further joint shoreline surveys between the various authorities, international experts and cleanup contractors to report any areas of potential oil impact or concern.

We remain committed to the oil spill response and will continue to deploy expert responders and assets in consultation with Philippine government entities to minimise any further impact on the local environment and to clean up those areas already affected by the spill.

UPDATE – MANILA, APRIL 05, 2023

RDC Reield Marine Services, owners of the sunken tanker Princess Empress, report that specialised oil leak capping bags have successfully been installed on areas of the wreck by an ROV operated by the Japanese salvage vessel Shin Nichi Maru. The specialised bags from the United Kingdom and copied locally are designed to catch and contain oil escaping from areas on the vessel identified as leaking through previous ROV surveys. 

ROV applying a bag for capping

ROV tying the capping bag off with cable ties

 

Each bag installation required a separate ROV dive with the initial placement of the bags over the targeted leak point and then a tying-off process with cable ties to ensure a seal. Underwater currents and obstructions around the hull made placing each bag a very challenging and technical operation. Despite the complexities involved, by the afternoon of Tuesday, April 4, the crew on the Shin Nichi Maru had successfully installed eight bags.

After each installation, further dive surveys are undertaken to identify other leak points for future reference. Some other identified leaks were inaccessible for bagging due to obstructions such as cargo nets, hoses, and ropes. The Shin Nichi Maru with ROV onboard has been demobilised from the sunken vessel site. Salvage experts are now exploring viable options to remove any remaining oil from the wreck.

On the surface, the at-sea response operations continue to collect oil that has leaked from the sunken vessel through the deployment of skimmers and manual scooping of oil contained by deployed booms. 

Joint shoreline surveys between the various authorities, international experts and clean-up contractors have detected some areas of oiling to the north of already affected regions of Oriental Mindoro, with clean-up operations now underway at these sites. 

Spill mitigation with high-volume flushing and high-pressure washing is ongoing in previously affected areas. Waste transferral of the collected oil and oiled debris to dedicated storage areas is underway to ensure safe storage before being shipped for disposal by government-approved contractors.

International representatives from the United States Coast Guard (USCG), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Korean Coast Guard (KCG) and Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) have been monitoring the clean-up efforts. 

We remain committed to the oil spill response. We will continue to deploy international oil spill experts and contracted responders in consultation with Philippine government entities to minimise any further impact on the local environment and to clean up those areas already affected by the spill.

UPDATE – MANILA, MARCH 31, 2023

This statement was released by the Shipowners P&I Club, insurers of the Princess Empress, and by the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds.

The International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC Funds) and the Shipowners P&I Club are pleased to announce that the joint claims submission office (Shipowners P&I Club and 1992 Fund) opened in the Oriental Mindoro Provincial Capitol, Calapan, on Friday, March 31, and the first claims arising from the Princess Empress pollution incident have been lodged.

Public lodging their claims on the first day of opening

Trained staff will continue to man the claims offices on weekdays from 8 am to 5 pm, ready to provide any assistance to the public looking to lodge claims. The offices will be closed for the Holy Week National Holiday from Wednesday, April 5 to Friday, April 7, inclusively.

Arrangements have also begun on mobilising a claims submission caravan to other affected barangays in the coming weeks to address the needs of others affected by the spill. Further details of these caravans will be provided once they are finalised.

UPDATE – MANILA, MARCH 31, 2023

RDC Reield Marine Services, owners of the sunken tanker Princess Empress, report that satellite imagery and joint aerial surveillance trajectory modelling show that the trajectory of the slick on the water varies from a south-westerly to westerly trajectory. Trajectory models indicate this variation will continue as weather patterns shift. Recently, there have been no further indications that any oil is heading south to the Western Visayas region. 

The at-sea response operations continue to collect oil emerging to the surface from the sunken vessel. French water pollution experts, Cedre have attended onboard the shipowner-contracted oil spill response tugs to provide technical advice to improve and refine the at-sea containment and recovery efforts. Work continues on a daily basis by the Philippine Coast Guard and contracted response vessels.

Joint shoreline surveys between the various authorities, international experts and clean-up contractors now focus across Oriental Mindoro in areas identified as at risk of contamination. Surveys are supported by US government observers from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who are monitoring the clean-up efforts. 

In Oriental Mindoro, shoreside cleanup with high-volume flushing and high-pressure washing of affected areas is ongoing, with temporary waste storage sites being established to allow the safe and secure collation of waste before it is shipped for disposal. In Semirara, work crews are cleaning stretches of affected shorelines as part of the ongoing cleanup efforts.  

Clean-up work crew-1.jpeg

(Left) High-pressure washing in Oriental Mindoro, (Right) Hand washing by response crews in Semirara

RDC Reield Marine Services remains committed to the oil spill response. Under the direction of ITOPF and in consultation with the Philippine government, the Philippine Coast Guard and local government representatives will continue to mobilise international oil spill experts and contracted responders to minimise any further impact on the local environment and to clean up those areas already affected by the spill.

UPDATE – MANILA, MARCH 27, 2023

This statement was released by the Shipowners P&I Club, insurers of the Princess Empress.

As announced, the claims submission office will act as collection point for claimants to collect and submit claims forms. Please understand that these are not a pay-out centers. The claims process starts with the submission of the claims and supporting documents for assessment. There will be claims processors stationed in the claims submission offices ready to assist the claimants. The claimants can either collect the claims form and fill it out at home and return to the claims office for submission along with supporting documents. Alternatively, they can fill out the claims form at the claims office with the assistance of the claims processors.  The list of supporting documents is attached to the claims forms.

The claims processors will need to collect personal data from the claimant, and that personal data is needed to assess your claim. Please read the claim form carefully. 

Also as previously announced, we will send a claims submission caravan to other affected barangays in the coming weeks and will provide further details of these caravans, prior to their arrival. 

We will ask for the public’s patience as we will try our best to accommodate these claimants. 

We also thank the Provincial Government of Mindoro for designating the Provincial Legal Office as the help desk for the claimants where one of our claims processor is available to assist.

 

UPDATE – MANILA, MARCH 25, 2023

RDC Reield Marine Services, owners of the sunken tanker Princess Empress, report that the ongoing spill response is progressing with a detailed clean-up plan devised by ITOPF and the clean-up contractors submitted to the Philippine authorities. 

The suggested clean-up techniques are already being implemented in Oriental Mindoro, where high-volume flushing and high-pressure washing of affected areas has started, with international observers on site. Other barangays in the affected areas of Semirara and Western Visayas have plans to proceed with this vital part of the clean-up process to complement the shoreline clean-up work already underway.

Clean-up along the shoreline

Through the process of shoreline surveys, a contamination map of the impacted areas is nearing completion. This effectively focusses local clean-up efforts to the most needed areas. Shoreline surveys continue across other sites identified as at risk or where oil has been reported.

 

An essential part of the clean-up process is safely storing and disposing of recovered oil and tainted waste. Through consultation with local authorities, intermediate waste storage sites (IWSS) have been identified, and international experts, Le Floch Depollution, with local contractors, are preparing these holding areas with proven containment measures and layers of protection to ensure there is no impact on the local people or environment. The Philippine Coast Guard and Environmental Management Bureau will monitor the storage sites as part of the collaborative effort.

 

The at-sea response continues with the ROV having completed its survey of the sunken wreck. Experts have identified points where oil is trickling from the vessel, and specialised equipment is being mobilised to the workboat "Shin Nichi Maru" to help mitigate pollution.

Shin Nichi Maru

Skimmers continue to recover surface oil in the at-sea containment and recovery efforts with shipowner-contracted oil spill response tugs working alongside the Philippine Coast Guard. Experts are still using aerial surveillance and satellite imagery to map changes in the direction of the spill, its spread, and possible landfall. 

Removing surface oil with oiil skimmers

 

RDC Reield Marine Services remains committed to the oil spill response and supported by ITOPF, will continue to mobilise and support international oil spill experts and contracted responders in a unified approach with the Philippine government, the Philippine Coast Guard and local government representatives.

UPDATE – MANILA, MARCH 24, 2023

 

This statement was released by the Shipowners P&I Club, insurers of the Princess Empress.

The Shipowners P&I Club invited the 1992 IOPC Fund and the Philippine Coast Guard to attend a meeting today to provide an update on the PRINCESS EMPRESS incident. The meeting was productive and also served to provide clarification to the Philippine Coast Guard regarding the funding and compensation process in place.

Fortunately, since 1998, the Philippines has been a party to the Civil Liability Convention and the 1992 Fund Convention. However, it is not a signatory to the Supplementary Fund. These conventions provide a compensation system for pollution damage (including clean-up and preventive measures)  caused by spills from tankers carrying persistent oil. The funding for this regime is shared by the vessel’s P&I insurer and the 1992 IOPC Fund. In this case, the PRINCESS EMPRESS is insured by the  Shipowners P&I Club.  

To date, the Shipowners P&I Club has worked with their insured to appoint and arrange several clean-up contractors for both shoreside and seaside response; this includes two tugs with oil spill response equipment which were able to reach the incident site very quickly and continue to remain in place. Further, they have engaged with a clean-up contractor who has deployed well over a hundred individuals for the shoreside response as well as mobilizing specialized equipment locally and from overseas. ITOPF were also engaged to provide independent technical advice on oil spill response. ITOPF has been working closely with the Philippine Coast Guard and other authorities to coordinate the response.

 

In addition to the above, the Shipowners P&I Club have assisted their insured (owners of the PRINCESS EMPRESS) to contract with a Japanese salvor to provide a dynamic positioning vessel onsite with ROV capability. Upon arrival, they were able to quickly undertake an extensive ROV study to understand the current condition of the vessel and locate the sources of the oil spill. This information is vital to formulating the next steps to be taken in the short and long term to mitigate any further pollution. The PRINCESS EMPRESS is currently lying at a depth of approximately 400m, which increases the complexity of all operations, as divers cannot do the work. Therefore the Shipowners P&I Club is working with their insured to source and identify appropriate contractors and equipment to carry out the pollution mitigation operations.

In parallel, the Shipowners P&I Club and the 1992 IOPC Fund are on track to open a joint claims submissions centre in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, during the week commencing March 27 2023. This office will receive and process claims from individuals, communities, corporations, and local governments affected by the oil spill. Several other claims submission offices will open in affected regions over the next few weeks to allow claimants to submit their claims more easily. Updates will continue to be provided regarding the location and contact details of these offices.

The Shipowners P&I Club is very grateful for the continuous cooperation of the 1992 IOPC Fund and the Philippine Coast Guard.

UPDATE – MANILA, MARCH 21, 2023

 

RDC Reield Marine Services, owners of the sunken tanker Princess Empress, are pleased to report that the wreck has been located by the ROV "Hakuyo" at a depth of 398 meters off Mindoro. Visual surveys of the vessel, recorded on video, are underway to help determine the structural condition of the wreck and check for any ongoing oil leaks. 

The ROV had arrived on the workboat Shin Nichi Maru, in Calapan, Mindoro, on March 20, 2023, and proceeded to the believed location of the sunken ship. The crew aboard the Shin Nichi Maru, with guidance from technical experts also on board,then started searching for the wreck. The ROV was then deployed, locating the wreck of the Princess Empress.

ROV deployment by Shin Nichi Maru crew

Over the coming days, surveys will be conducted by the crew of the Shin Nichi Maru, together with the technical experts on board, to assess the situation of the wreck, in view of assessing any appropriate measures required. 

 

At-sea containment and recovery of floating oil on the surface is ongoing with oil spill response tugs contracted by the shipowner, working alongside the Philippine Coast Guard.

The clean-up operation bases in Pola, Oriental Mindoro and Semirara Island, run by Le Floch Depollution (LFD) and local oil spill response contractors, continue the daily deployment of work crews to remove oil from priority clean-up sites.

Joint shoreline surveys are ongoing, with representatives of the Philippine Coast Guard, government authorities, local government units and ITOPF continuing to shape clean-up plans that the shipowner-appointed contractors LFD and response contractors undertake. Meanwhile, experts continue to use aerial surveillance and satellite imagery to assess the direction of the spill's spread and predict the time and location of any further possible landfall.

We remain committed to the oil spill response. We are working closely with the Philippine government, the Philippine Coast Guard, local government representatives, international oil spill experts and contracted responders to ensure a unified approach.

UPDATE – MANILA, MARCH 18, 2023

 

RDC Reield Marine Services, owners of the tanker Princess Empress, report that the oil spill response to minimise the impact of oil cargo lost from the sunken vessel continues to grow and evolve under the advice of independent international oil spill experts ITOPF, both at-sea and along affected shorelines.

At sea, at the point where oil surfaces, tugs with appropriate spill response equipment remain at work with the Philippine Coast Guard for the at-sea containment and recovery of any floating oil. Additional assets, including the ROV "Hakuyo" and workboat "Shin Nichi Maru", are en route to the scene.

Workboat Shin Nichi Maru with ROV Hakuyo onboard

Le Floch Depollution (LFD) and local oil spill response contractors have established bases of operation in both Pola, Oriental Mindoro and Semirara Island, and work crews are actively removing oil from the affected areas across the regions at priority clean-up sites. The Philippine Coast Guard, local government units representing individual communities and ITOPF continue to conduct joint shoreline surveys and provide clean-up plans that the shipowner appointed contractors LFD and response contractors undertake.

Aerial surveillance of the remaining oil at-sea continues as experts assess the direction of the spill's spread. In addition, satellite imagery is used to understand the overall oil trajectory and its potential impacts, enabling specialised modelling to predict the time and location of any further possible landfall.

Containment booming at the source

 

Joint shoreline surveys from the air and on the ground are ongoing in any area suspected or reported of being affected by the spill. The findings of these surveys direct clean-up operations and plans and also shape the environmental monitoring plans that are crucial to supporting affected fishing communities.

 

We remain committed to the oil spill response and will continue to work closely with the Philippine government, the Philippine Coast Guard, local government representatives, international oil spill experts and contracted responders to ensure a unified approach.

UPDATE – MANILA, MARCH 15, 2023

 

RDC Reield Marine Services (RDC), as owners of the tanker Princess Empress, can confirm that a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) will be joining the ongoing oil spill response efforts currently underway to minimise the impact of oil that has leaked from the vessel after sinking off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines on February 28, 2023.

The ROV “Hakuyo” is currently en route to the Philippines from Japan onboard its mother vessel, the workboat Shin Nichi Maru, and is expected to arrive on Monday, March 20, 2023, to start operations. The ROV and its mother vessel were contracted by RDC sometime last week after an extensive search for all available options.

On arrival, the ROV will be tasked with confirming the location of the sunken vessel, which is thought to be at a depth of 400 meters in an area approximately 15 km northeast of Mindoro. Once the Princess Empress is found, the ROV will conduct visual surveys of the vessel, recorded on video, to help determine the structural condition of the wreck and check for any ongoing oil leaks.

Experts will then assess these surveys to determine further options to address any leaks and remove any remaining cargo.

UPDATE – MANILA, MARCH 12, 2023

 

RDC Reield Marine Services, as owners of the tanker Princess Empress, continue to work closely with the Philippine government, the Philippine Coast Guard, local government representatives, international oil spill experts and contracted responders to minimise the impact of oil cargo that has leaked from the vessel after sinking off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines on February 28, 2023.

We are truly sorry that this incident has affected the livelihoods of those living in the impacted areas and the spill's effect on the environment. We are committed to doing everything possible to minimise the ongoing impact on the environment and people's lives and clean up the spill.

Thankfully, the 20 Filipino crew onboard the Princess Empress when it foundered during extreme weather conditions are all safe and well. We are truly grateful to those who were part of the rescue effort to return them to their families and loved ones.

Our primary focus at this stage remains on the oil spill response and we are adopting a phased approach as advised by experts.

Under Phase One, we are currently undertaking emergency measures to limit oil reaching the shore, mobilise appropriate assets to the site, and integrate multiple response elements into a single cohesive strategy to ensure the most effective operation can be mounted. 

Onsite, tugs with spill response equipment onboard continue working with the Philippine Coast Guard on at-sea containment, recovery and storage of the recovered oil. 

Ashore, international oil spill experts from ITOPF are providing technical advice to all parties, including the Philippine Coast Guard, key government departments such as DENR, central government, local authorities and onsite Contractors, our P&I Club and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC) Funds, to ensure a unified approach.

In addition, we have retained the specialist French oil spill response company, Le Floch Depollution (LFD),who are mobilising local assets and personnel, deploying necessary assets within the Philippines and importing needed equipment from overseas.

Phase Two involves the development of a detailed response plan by ITOPF and clean-up contractors, outlining the at-sea and shoreline response for different affected areas for the Philippine authorities' approval and implementation. The plan is a fluid document that evolves with the response and will include technical details of the techniques that will be applied, the survey process and objectives. 

Phase 3 involves delivering a clean-up plan with ongoing engagement with government authorities and other stakeholders to ensure clarity and consensus on all aspects of the ongoing operations. ITOPF will lead a series of joint surveys of affected sites with key stakeholders to formulate and implement effective clean-up plans withshared agreement on when to end operations.

We are working closely with our insurers, and those affected by the spill will be duly advised on how to submit their claims for processing. We must, however, emphasise that the immediate priority has to be the coastal clean-up, which directly impacts the lives of the communities who depend on the sea.

RDC REIELD MARINE SERVICES, INC. WORKING CLOSELY WITH THE GOVERNMENT IN CONTAINING AND MINIMIZING THE EFFECTS OF OIL SPILLAGE IN SEVERAL AREAS IN ORIENTAL MINDORO

 

March 3, 2023.

 

RDC REIELD MARINE SERVICES, INC., deeply regrets the occurrence of oil spillage in several areas of Oriental Mindoro.

With our limited resources, while reeling from the losses brought about by the unfortunate event, we are fully committed to adopting short-term and long-term strategies to alleviate the situation with the help of our partners.

We have already deployed technical experts on the ground, air, and sea to conduct an assessment of the affected areas. The said experts will come up with an effective dispatch strategy for containing and mitigating the oil spill on the shoreline.

We have been assisting the Philippine Coast Guard in procuring oil spill collection equipment, such as disposable PPEs, open-ended drums, gas masks, and diesel allocation, among others. We are immensely grateful for the PCG for guiding us on the appropriate steps that we need to take.

We would also like to ensure our LGUs that we are doing everything to provide them with support within the best of our limited resources. We hear and acknowledge their concerns and fears, and we are grateful for their patience and understanding.

We express our heartfelt gratitude to our partners from the oil and shipping industries for heeding our call for help.

Lastly, we reiterate our company’s commitment to working closely with the authorities and the affected communities until this matter is fully resolved.

RDC REIELD MARINE SERVICES, INC. ASSURES FULL COOPERATION WITH THE GOVERNMENT IN RESOLVING THE ISSUES BROUGHT ABOUT BY THE LISTING AND SINKING OF MT PRINCESS EMPRESS NEAR NAUJAN, ORIENTAL MINDORO

 

March 1, 2023.

 

RDC REIELD MARINE SERVICES, INC., is deeply saddened by the unfortunate incident that involved one of our marine vessels – MT PRINCESS EMPRESS, which listed and sank off the shore of Naujan in Oriental Mindoro at around 2:00 a.m. on February 28.

Based on our initial investigation, the said vessel carrying 800,000 liters of industrial oil en route to Iloilo from Limay, Bataan was slammed by strong waves that caused its sinking. We are still fortunate that all 20 personnel on board our vessel were unharmed and rescued. All of them are safe and were given the proper medical attention to ensure their general well-being.

We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the crew members of a foreign general cargo vessel – MV EFES who extended their help in rescuing our ship personnel. We would also like to express our utmost appreciation to our national and local government units for zealously managing this crisis.

Moreover, we would like to acknowledge that the incident has unfortunately caused an oil spillage across the waters of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro. We vow our full cooperation with the Philippine Coast Guard, the affected local government units, and other government agencies in controlling the further spread of oil leakage and minimizing its damage to the environment, and to the health, and livelihood of the affected communities.

 

We are also appealing for any support from other oil companies and maritime institutions to ensure the swift resolution of this problem.

We will be on top of the situation together with our partners from the government. We assure the public that our company will continue to be committed to providing efficient and high-quality shipping services like we always do in the last eight years in the business.

Image by Gustavo Espíndola

FAQ

1. WHERE AND WHEN DID THE VESSEL SINK?

Whilst on voyage to Iloilo from Limay, Bataan, the Princess Empress encountered adverse weather conditions off the Coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines, on February 28 at approximately 2 am. With the vessel rolling, pitching and taking on water, the Captain made the prudent decision to abandon ship before the Princess Empress sank. The ship is now thought to be at a depth of 400 meters Northeast of Pola, Oriental Mindoro, although the wreck could have moved in the tide/weather.



2. WHAT WAS THE CAUSE OF THE SINKING AND WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CREW?

Reports are that the vessel took on water in large seas and foundered. All 20 crew were rescued by a passing general cargo vessel, the MV Efes, and we extend our heartfelt gratitude for their assistance. Our seafarers have since been medically assessed and have since been released with no reports of any injuries. There won't be a definitive answer on the cause of the sinking until the investigation is complete.



3. WHAT WAS THE CARGO ON BOARD?

The cargo is reported as 800,000 litres or 800 cubic meters of industrial fuel oil.



4. WHO IS THE SHIP OWNER, AND WHAT ARE THE VESSEL'S DETAILS?

The vessel is owned and operated by RDC Reield Marine Services, an all-Filipino-owned family corporation established in July 2014.

The Princess Empress, IMO: 9985136, is a double-hulled oil products tanker built in 2022 with a summer deadweight of 1143 tonnes and a gross tonnage of 508 tonnes. 

The Princess Empress sails under the Philippine flag with P&I Insurance through The Shipowners Club and is registered with the Orient Register of Shipping, Inc. (ORS) 



5. WHAT AREAS HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY THE OIL SPILL?

Assessments of affected areas are ongoing, but the initial focus is on the northeast coast of Mindoro, eastern Semirara and islands in Western Visayas.

6. WHAT IS BEING DONE TO PROTECT THE COASTLINE AND CLEAN UP THE SPILL?

The oil spill response has adopted a phased approach as advised by experts.

Under Phase One, we are currently undertaking emergency measures to limit oil reaching the shore, mobilise appropriate assets to the site, and integrate multiple response elements into a single cohesive strategy to ensure the most effective operation can be mounted. 

Onsite, tugs with spill response equipment onboard continue working with the Philippine Coast Guard on at-sea containment, recovery and storage of the recovered oil. 

Ashore, international oil spill experts from ITOPF are providing technical advice to all parties, including the Philippine Coast Guard, key government departments such as DENR, central government, local authorities and onsite Contractors, our P&I Club and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC) Funds, to ensure a unified approach.

In addition, we have retained the specialist French oil spill response company, Le Floch Depollution (LFD), who are mobilising local assets and personnel, deploying necessary assets within the Philippines and importing needed equipment from overseas. 

Phase Two involves the development of a detailed response plan by ITOPF and clean-up contractors, outlining the at-sea and shoreline response for different affected areas for the Philippine authorities' approval and implementation. The plan is a fluid document that evolves with the response and will include technical details of the techniques that will be applied, the survey process and objectives. 

Phase 3 involves delivering a clean-up plan with ongoing engagement with government authorities and other stakeholders to ensure clarity and consensus on all aspects of the ongoing operations. ITOPF will lead a series of joint surveys of affected sites with key stakeholders to formulate and implement effective clean-up plans with shared agreement on when to end operations.

7. WHAT IS ITOPF?

ITOPF is a not-for-profit organisation that responds to incidents involving oil or chemical spills worldwide, with an international team with expertise in spill response and claims analysis & damage assessment. ITOPF’s services are provided to its member shipowners and their insurers, as well as governments and intergovernmental organisations such as IMO and the IOPC Funds.

8. HOW WILL COMPENSATION CLAIMS BY AFFECTED INDIVIDUALS BE MANAGED

In respect of claims for compensation by individuals and others that have arisen because of the incident, claims offices will be set up over the next two weeks in the affected areas, where local assistance will be provided for the submission of claims at these claims offices, following which all claims submitted will be objectively and fairly assessed. Once the offices are established further information will be provided.

9. WHERE WOULD FUNDING FOR CLEAN-UP COSTS AND COMPENSATION CLAIMS BY AFFECTED INDIVIDUALS COME FROM?

Philippines has ratified the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC) and the International Convention on the establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 1992 (1992 Fund Convention), both of which provide a legal framework on the funding for reasonable clean-up costs and other claims for pollution damage relating to the incident. The CLC and the Fund Convention cover claims for pollution response, damage to property, economic losses in the fisheries and tourism sectors and costs of reasonable measures to reinstate the environment. The CLC provides the first level of compensation by owners of the vessel, which is covered under the terms of P&I insurance cover.  The second level of compensation comes under the 1992 Fund Convention and is administered by the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund 1992 (the 1992 Fund). The owners of the vessel in conjunction with their P&I insurer The Shipowners Mutual Protection & Indemnity Association (which is part of the International Group of P&I Clubs) and the 1992 Fund, will examine the claims for compensation arising out of this incident in order to compensate claimants for the pollution damage suffered.  Please see the following links for further information on CLC, the 1992 Fund Convention and International Group:

The owners of the PRINCESS EMPRESS have cover in respect of their legal liability for third party pollution claims (i.e. pollution clean up and damage claims) up to USD 1,000,000,000, such cover subject to terms of the insurance, which includes the Rules of the P&I Club. However, owners’ legal liability is determined in accordance with Philippines law, and relevant international conventions that the Philippines are a party to. Under the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution 1992 (CLC), Members liability is capped to SDR 4.51 million (see below on “What is an SDR”). However fortunately the Philippines has ratified the 1992 Fund Convention. The 1992 Fund pays compensation when the damage exceeds the limit of the Shipowners liability under the 1992 CLC, up to a max amount of SDR 203 million.  

 

In between the SDR 4.51 million and SDR 203 million, there is an agreement between the International Group of P&I Clubs and the IOPC Fund called STOPIA (the Small Tanker Oil Pollution Indemnification Agreement), where the maximum amount of compensation payable by the vessel owners and their P&I insurers is increased to SDR 20 million.  So the owners of the PRINCESS EMPRESS and their P&I insurers will respond to the first SDR 20 million, thereafter the 1992 Fund will respond up to SDR 203 million. This is why the claims submission offices refer to the owners of the PRINCESS EMPRESS, their P&I Club and the 1992 Fund.  Further information regarding STOPIA and the 1992 Fund can be found at:  

10. WHAT IS THE SDR?

The SDR is an international reserve asset. The SDR is not a currency, but its value is based on a basket of five currencies—the US dollar, the euro, the Chinese renminbi, the Japanese yen, and the British pound sterling. 

When fixed exchange rates ended in 1973, the IMF redefined the SDR as equivalent to the value of a basket of world currencies. The SDR itself is not a currency but an asset that holders can exchange for currency when needed. The SDR serves as the unit of account of the IMF and other international organizations.

 

The above information is taken from IMF’s website. For more information on the SDR, please refer to:

11. WHAT IS P&I INSURANCE?

P&I insurance stands for protection and indemnity insurance, which is a form of insurance that provides cover for a shipowner against liabilities from third parties arising out of the use and operation of their vessels. Such insurance covers a wide range of liabilities, which include, among others, loss of life/property and personal injury to crew, pollution, wreck removal and damage to property, such cover being subject to the insured vessel satisfying certain rules (Club Rules).

12. WHAT IS H&M INSURANCE?

H&M insurance stands for hull and machinery insurance, which is a form of insurance that provides cover for shipowners against physical loss or damage to the vessel's hull, machinery and everything connected therewith. 

13. DOES THE VESSEL HAVE P&I INSURANCE? 

The vessel is entered with The Shipowners’ Mutual Protection and Indemnity Association (Luxembourg) (“The Shipowners’ Club”), a member of the International Group of P&I Clubs. The vessel has cover in relation to P&I liabilities as mentioned above among others, such cover being subject to fulfilment of the Club Rules.  

14. WHAT IS THE CLC? 

The CLC, which is short for the Civil Liability Convention, was adopted by States Parties including the Philippines to ensure that adequate compensation is available to persons who suffer oil pollution damage resulting from maritime casualties involving oil-carrying ships. 

15. WHAT IS THE IOPC FUNDS?

The International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC Funds) provide financial compensation for oil pollution damage that occurs in member states, including the Philippines, resulting from spills of persistent oil from tankers. The Fund works in tandem with the CLC, covering compensation that is beyond the applicable limitation amounts in the CLC. 

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