The M/V Estrella del Mar

Image by Mike Baylon

The M/V Estrella del Mar might not look much but she is a well-loved ship in Aleson Shipping Company. She is growing old and Aleson Shipping has sold some former ships but it is rumored that she will never be sold no matter what. The reason for this is MV Estrella del Mar is the first ship of Aleson Shipping and considered to have brought luck to the company.

Aleson did not actually begin with shipping and they were rather late in that business compared to the pillars of Zamboanga shipping like Sampaguita Shipping, Ever Lines, Magnolia Shipping and the twin companies SKT and KST. They were in the trading and distribution business which continues up to the present. Shipping was more of a spin-off of that business, a supportive horizontal integration. For this matter, Aleson Shipping was not even the original owner of MV Estrella del Mar. It’s original owner was Feliciano N. Tan.

MV Estrella del Mar is not a second-hand ferry from Japan. She was built right in Zamboanga City by Varadero de Recodo in 1975, the reason she exhibits the
classic cruiser design then of Zamboanga-built steel ferries. For small ferries this means an upper deck exclusively for passengers and a lower deck both for passengers and cargo. On the engine deck, but ahead of the engine is the cargo hold.

The cargo is loaded by sliding it from the wharf through wooden planks and it will be thrown to porters waiting inside the hot cargo hold. Unloading will mean porters inside the cargo hold throwing the cargo to the waiting arms of porters on the deck above and porters will carry it by their shoulders to the wharf or throw it to the arms of porters waiting at the wharf if it is light enough.

Not being an overnight ferry, the upper passenger section of MV Estrella del Mar is equipped with benches of the movable type. This kind of accommodation is employed so that when additional cargo space is needed or the ship will sail in an all-cargo voyage then the cargo can be accommodated in the passenger section above. Although MV Estrella del Mar has a steel hull, the decks of the ship are wooden. The frame of the benches are made of wrought steel, hence it is heavy. This weight is what actually holds the bench in place combined with the non-slippery wooden decks.

M/V Estrella del Mar in Zamboanga. © Ray_93/Flickr

MV Estrella del Mar has only one mast, a clipper bow and a transom stern, which is unusual for a cruiser type of ship. Her small pilot house is located above the passenger deck, accessible by a small door that can be locked inside. Her specifications are as follows:

Length = 38.1 meters
Breadth = 6.7 meters
Depth = 3.0 meters
Gross Tonnage = 230
Net Tonnage = 143

She is powered by a single Yanmar Marine engine developing 850 horsepower and giving her an original cruising speed of 10.5 knots. Lately, however, she can no longer run at that speed as her engine is now weaker. She is exclusively being used in the short Zamboanga City-Isabela City, Basilan route. With a near-surplus of vessels in the fleet, there are days when the company choose not to sail her. The vessel, by the way, has no air-conditioned section.

Many people of Zamboanga and Basilan are familiar with this ship. It is likely they will be still be seeing her for a long time more.


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