October 6, 2022

Customs to auction sunken cargo vessel

The Bureau of Customs said over the weekend it plans to hold a public auction "at the soonest possible time" for a cargo ship that sank in Manila Bay on July 17.

M/V Captain Ufuk H8EH, a cargo ship of Panamanian registry, was seized for carrying smuggled unlicensed firearms in 2009 and sank last week after water seeped through a hole on the ship. Efforts are now underway for salvage operations.

The Finance Department said the Bureau of Customs paid P26.5 million to Radial Golden Marine Services just to safeguard and maintain the vessel since it was seized in 2009.

Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon said the public auction of M/V Captain Ufuk H8EH was in line with the provisions of Republic Act No. 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act of 2016, which provided three modes of disposing goods seized by the agency.

Under Section 1141 of CMTA, forfeited goods for disposition may either be donated to another government agency, declared for official use by the bureau after the approval of the Finance Secretary or "sold at public auction within 30 days after a 10-day notice posted at a public place at the port where the goods are located and published electronically or in a newspaper of general circulation."

Faeldon's memorandum also cited special provisions of the 2016 General Appropriations Act which stated that motor transport equipment and other articles forfeited or abandoned in favor of the government should be sold at public auction by the Finance Department upon recommendation of the commissioner.

Customs deputy commissioner Arturo Lachica, who chairs the bureau's negotiated sale committee, recommended to Faeldon the disposition of the sunken vessel through a negotiated sale "at the soonest possible time."

"With respect to the special crewing contract between this bureau and Radial Golden Marine Services, this bureau has been paying and continues to pay Radial Golden Marine Services a monthly fee of P331,500 for the vessel's safeguarding and maintenance," Lachica said.

M/V Captain Ufuk H8EH was seized on Aug. 20, 2009 after it was found loaded with five boxes containing 50 pieces of Pindad SS-1 rifles and other high-powered firearms worth about P25 million.

The ship was docked at Manila Bay under the bureau's custody. It sank on July 17, 2016 after water seeped through a hole on the ship.

From an initial floor price of P98.9 million when the ship was seized by a BOC team led by lawyer Elvira Cruz in Mariveles, Bataan, its value fell to only P21.5 million in 2015, according to an estimated by Development Bank of the Philippines.

The Maritime Industry Authority pegged the current price at $493,450.

Source: The Standard