Tragedy at sea – one Filipino seaman dies and three others injured in Atlantic storm

Updated: February 9, 2021, 11:35 AM

Second update: February 9, 2021, 12 AM

Halifax,Nova Scotia:

Kababayans tumulong sa mga marinero na na-stranded


Teodoro ‘Ted’ Alcuitas

Editor, Philippine Canadian New.Com (PCN.Com)

One Filipino crewman died and three others injured as their cargo ship MV Giulia I was battered by high waves in the middle of the Atlantic on February 1. 

“He was hit by waves,” a crew member told Philippine Canadian News.Com (PCN.Com) by video chat from his quarters in the MV Giulia I now marooned in the Halifax Harbour.

We were not able to confirm how the 30-year old crew member died but reports say the crewmen must have been working on deck when the storm hit. No names have been released as the incident is under investigation by the RCMP and Transport Canada.

The bulk carrier with an all-Filipino crew of 20, was on its way to Africa from Norfolk, Virginia when it was struck by the storm some 320 nautical miles southeast of Nova Scotia.

An S.O.S. distress call was received at 2:12 p.m. Atlantic time and the vessel diverted to Halifax, where it arrived just before 1 a.m. Monday,February 1.

The ship which is registered in Malta has been moored in the Halifax port ever since awaiting repairs and the result of an investigation by Canadian authorities.

In the last 10 years according to a recent Atlantic article, 1,036 ships have been lost at sea, including another cement carrier that capsized in bad weather near Scotland with no survivors.

The remaining crew members are not allowed on shore and are confined in the ship, according to reports.

Nova Scotia Pinoy Tambayan

Seafarers enjoy the donations by their kababayans. (Photo: Nova Scotia Pinoy Tambayan)

So, members of the Filipino communities in Halifax spearheaded by Philippine Consul Connie Lacson has been mobilizing to get donations of food, toiletries, etc. and bring them to the crew on board the ship.

All donations are facilitated by Jake Salcedo who delivers them to the seafarers.

Salcedo, using social media, through the Facebook group Nova Scotia Pinoy Tambayan, has tapped into the Filipino spirit of Bayanihan and the offers of help just seemed never to stop.

Because the seafarers have no other means of contact with their families and loved ones back home except through their cell phones, they were gifted each with a SIM card through a GoFundMe campaign organized by Micah Lacson.

From home-cooked meals to Pizza donated by Domino’s and SIM cards, donations kept pouring in for the seafarers who felt the love of their fellow kababayans, lifting their spirits as they await to resume their voyage at sea.

Some of the donations that were delivered to the seafarers. (Photo: Nova Scotia Pinoy Tambayan)

Filipinos dominate the sea

The high seas has always been the domain of Filipino seafarers ever since the Philippine government made it a major plank of their labour export policy. But before the advent of modern-day shipping, Filipinos have manned the Spanish galleons that plied Manila and Acapulco in Mexico with ships made in the Philippines.The trade with Mexico and Manila lasted from 1565 to 1815.

Today, about 400,000 of the world’s 1.6 million seafarers are Filipinos, sending home $6 billion back to their country in remittances.

More than nine-tenths of global trade (by weight) is carried by sea, on some 100,000 merchant vessels. And on any given day, perhaps 250,000 Filipino mariners are at sea. If they stayed at home, the world economy would convulse, says an article by The Economist.

Murder in the high seas and the Maersk Dubai saga

Filipinos and the Port of Halifax hugged headlines in  May 1996 when the Taiwanese cargo ship MV Maersk Dubai was stormed by the RCMP upon arrival under suspicion that a murder has been committed in the high seas.

When four Romanian stowaways were discovered on board, the captain ordered them thrown overboard. But a fourth was saved and hidden by a Filipino officer Rodolfo Miguel, who informed a priest-friend in the U.S. about the murders. The priest alerted police in Canada and the ship was boarded by the RCMP in Halifax. The Taiwanese officers were all arrested and charged with first degree murder while Miguel and seven other Filipino crewmen jumped ship. 

Four of the Filipino crewmen who reported the incident have remained in Halifax, and three of them now work for the Canadian Coast Guard. Their families in the Philippines were reported to have gone into hiding during the proceedings for fear of reprisals by agents hired by Yang Ming Lines.

The murders were brought to the attention of authorities when Filipino crewmen mailed a desperate letter describing what had happened to Rev. Randy Albano, a Philippines-born chaplain at a seafarers’ centre in Houston. He faxed it to the International Transport Workers Federation, a union coalition that oversees seafarers’ welfare, and to Canadian authorities.

The Maersk Dubai was seized by Canadian officials upon its arrival in Halifax. The Taiwanese officers and crew were interrogated.

The movie “Über Bord”, a 60 minutes film-docmentation from 2005 realised by the German journalist Rainer Kahrs, reconstructs the story of the MV “Maersk Dubai”,

The novel ‘The Stowaway by Robert Hough is also based on the Maersk Dubai incident.

Here is a description of the book from the publishers:

“It is at once a thrilling maritime adventure and a thought-provoking morality tale based on real-life events. The novel begins in the spring of 1996 when Rodolfo Miguel, a bosun on the Taiwanese container ship Maersk Dubai, discovers a hungry and frightened pair of Romanian stowaways.

With the suspense of a thriller and the moral resonance of a Joseph Conrad classic, The Stowaway is an adventure story of the highest caliber, a profound tale of good and evil all the more moving because it is based on actual events.

When two Romanian stowaways show themselves on the container ship Maersk Dubai one day into its passage across the Atlantic Ocean, bosun Rodolfo Miguel escorts them to his captain, assuming they’ll be fed and put to work. To his horror, and that of the rest of the crew, the officers order the men to be put onto a flimsy raft, which in an instant is sucked under the frigid, unforgiving water. Over the next few weeks, the crew is divided between those loyal to the officers and those who cannot accept what they have seen. When on a later voyage a third stowaway is found, and then another, they’re forced to come to terms with the earlier murders and, at the risk of their own lives, act for good or evil. Intercut with these events is the backstory of the desperate stowaways, forced to flee their impoverished country in search of a better life.”

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