On 21 June 2008, the Princess of the Stars ferry sank with 850 people onboard following Typhoon Fengshen off the coast of Sibuyan Island. Many people lost their lives and numerous bodies remained trapped in the wreck.
On 28th, operations to recover the bodies were suspended due to the presence of containers of pesticides onboard liable to release these chemicals. It was considered necessary to remove these substances before continuing to recover the corpses or attempting to refloat the wreck.
A 5 km exclusion zone around the wreck, where fishing and aquaculture activities were prohibited, was set up by the Philippine authorities.
An expert from Cedre was dispatched to the Philippines on 9 July, in charge of a European Commission assignment (MIC: Monitoring and Information Centre for civil protection) in order to assess the human and environmental risks connected to the presence of these chemicals and the bunker fuel present in the wreck.
Five highly toxic pesticides were being transported in 2 containers onboard the ferry. A 40-foot container held 10 tonnes of Endosulfan and a 10-foot container stored 4 other pesticides in smaller quantities. Endosulfan is used in pineapple production in the Philippines. This particular cargo came from Israel.
On site, the experts carried out aerial reconnaissance, as well as surveys by boat and on foot along the shoreline in order to assess the situation and make recommendations on analysis protocols, boom deployment and response at sea in case of a spill.
On 11 July, following the observation of a fuel slick, the Coast Guards deployed a boom around the wreck.
Seawater samples were taken from 5 sample points around the wreck every day, then analysed by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB). Fish, sediment and plankton were also sampled by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
Following the expert mission, a debriefing was held on the MIC premises in Brussels on 26 September 2008. The representatives of Member States were invited to this meeting.
Name: Princess of the Stars
Date: 21 June 2008
Accident area: Sibuyan Island
Cause of spill: storm
Products transported: pesticides (Endosulfan, Antracol WP 70, Tamaron 600 SL, Trap 70 WP, Fuerza GR 3), paint, solvents, electrical equipment, 100,000 l of Marine Diesel Oil
Type of pollutant: heavy fuel oil
Ship type: Ferry
Date built: 1986
Length: 193 m
Page dedicated to the search for victims, website of the Princess of the Stars' shipping company.
Coordination marée noire
Extracts from the Lloyd's List article on the major ferry disasters resulting in loss of human life.
IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Network)
Information provided by IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks), attached to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), for those involved with humanitarian action.
Monitoring and Information Center (MIC)
Report from European experts mandated by the MIC and the United Nations
Last update: 31/07/2008