March 2 ------ The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has detained a Panama-flagged cargo vessel after the ship’s captain allegedly gave false port clearance information amid intensified maritime security measures against coronavirus. According to the initial report, the 39,037 cbm Harmony Six docked in Changzhou, China on February 13, 2020, and left on February 18, 2020. Scheduled to have its next port call at the Port of Poro Point in La Union, Philippines, the crew of the vessel allegedly turned off its automatic identification system (AIS) from February 19, until the arrival to the Philippine waters on February 23. On February 23, captain of MV Harmony Six, a Vietnamese national, declared that the bulker left China on February 10 instead of on February 18, in order to fit into the 14-day quarantine period being strictly implemented in all major ports in the country as a security measure against COVID-19.
The quarantine period dictates that the 28,700 dwt Harmony Six and other vessels that came from any country with reported cases of COVID-19 shall have a 14-day period from its date of departure from China to its arrival to the Philippine waters, before the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) may conduct health inspection among its crew that is needed for the issuance of port clearance. However, due to the captain’s misrepresentation of its date of departure from China, the BOQ team boarded the vessel to conduct the health inspection among its 18 Vietnamese and 5 Indian crew in just six days, instead of the required 14-day quarantine period.
Through proactive surveillance, the PCG Command Center, with assistance from the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC), was able to alert the port state control group in La Union about the alleged misrepresentation and the turning off the ship’s AIS. Immediately, the vessel was declared under temporary detention at the anchorage area while the investigation about the violations is ongoing. PCG will coordinate with BOQ to identify possible criminal charges if the Handy bulker will be found guilty of mentioned violations. Built in 1996, Harmony Six, previously known as Amar Meray T, is operated by Feng Sea Shipping, data provided by VesselsValue shows.