The MV Isla Simara Is Now In San Bernardino Strait

The MV  Isla Simara of Shogun Shipping was presented to the local media a few days ago in Pier 6 of NorthPort (the old North Harbor) before she departed where the controversial and untrue claim as the first RORO built by Pinoys was issued. The owners also claimed that the ship has the longest ramp in the country which is also untrue. Now, I did not know if Trump-ism has already taken hold in our land. Why claim things that are simply not true?

The Isla Simara’s keel was laid in a Sual, Pangasinan last year and when she was already capable of floating she was towed to Josefa Slipways in Navotas, Metro Manila where she was completed. In launching, there there was enough buoyancy from the shallow waters of the Navotas river plus she is large and so her screws hit and she had to be winched back to port for repairs. Now, I do not know if that was good omen or not.


While already capable of sailing the Isla Simara cannot sail as she lacked a Certificate of Public Conveyance (CPC) which will allow her to sail a route legally . There was a back and forth where she will be fielded, one option being Cebu-Tagbilaran route but finally the owners were firm she would said the Matnog, Sorsogon to Allen, Northern Samar route using the private BALWHARTECO Port. It was the owners of this port which finally swung the owners in the route determination after pledging support to Shogun Shipping. However, the ferry lost more than two months.


The other day, on August 26, 2019, Isla Simara finally arrived in Matnog after an economical-speed sailing in heavy rains spawned by the combination of a habagat (Southwest monsoon)intensified by a tropical depression. The next day, she sailed to BALWHARTECO Port and luckily the stormy weather already ceased and she docked uneventfully in the afternoon.


And so last night, the ferry held an open house while docked at the port, in clear weather and invited were town, barangay (barrio) and port officials plus of course the local detachments of MARINA, the PPA and the Coast Guard. It was actually an semi-formal event and not so exclusive party and it was actually very rare as in a blue moon for a shipping company to invite the public in.

Well, one advantage is BALWHARTECO is not an ISPS port because if she is then it  will be off-limits to the general public because of fear of terrorists will then be the primary consideration. May I note that in my experience BALWHARTECO port is friendly to the general public and one can reach the ferries without much fuss. Inside the port are establishments that cater to the general public.

In BALWHARTECO, Isla Simara dwarfed the competing ROROs of Montenegro Shipping Lines which will be her main competitor (although the ROROs  in Dapdap and Jubasan ports of Allen will also be directly competing). This ferry is big and her size is not what is used in the short-distance routes (she might be the biggest ferry/RORO now in a short-distance route). However, she is a day ferry equipped with seats and lounges as insisted by the owner.




Isla Simara has been built using many kits from China and even her interiors are not local. Her aesthetic design is impressive as well as her safety features. Of course, the bridge and engine room equipment are also imported. The ship can be considered first-class all the way at least by Philippine standards and her livery is not what is the usual in the local ferries.



Her Captain said she will be doing six or seven round trips a day. But the question is will there be enough load? In San Bernardino Strait, most of the rolling cargo (the vehicles) is already contracted which means they have contracts with a particular shipping company that assures them of a reserved ride even in the peaks of the peak season (and the sometimes traveler in the peak season do not understand that leading to complaints of “favoritism” and dapat daw “first come, first served”). Well, Virginia, there are reservations everywhere and not only in ports.

Most of the passengers across San Bernardino Strait are intermodal bus passengers and they are tied to their buses, they are not free to choose their ride and almost all are enjoying the “free ferry” perk that means they have free tickets for the ferry which is actually true. Contracts and free tickets are things not yet understood by Shogun Shipping and they might be in for a rough surprise. But for private cars owners, Isla Simara might be a pleasant alternative as for sure there will be no queues and the accommodations and amenities are well above those of the short-distance ferries.





What bothers me is the fact that Starlite Ferries of Batangas and the big Chelsea Logistics fielded a new ship in the exact route and ports and only lasted over a month when in terms of size, amenities, service and speed she can match the Isla Simara and yet she did not survive in the route. And to think that in MIMAROPA, in her home territory, Starlite Ferries is used to contracting and to rebates like what is present in San Bernardino Strait. Did they find it too hard to wean away the buses and trucks from their contracts? Besides, in San Bernardino Strait there are Cargo RORO LCTs that cater to trucks and they provide lower rates.

Last night, my informant and I were discussing over the phone. We thought Isla Simara could have been a killer if she was fielded as overnight ferry because then her superior amenities and newness will be more on display compared to a one-hour route like that in San Bernardino Strait. But who knows? Shogun Shipping still has three sister ships of Isla Simara on the pipeline. This company is really loaded as aside from ROROs they also have catamarans under the Island Water brand.

Whatever, her arrival to shake up San Bernardino bears watching. Her voyages commence next week.


[Photo Credits: Philippine Ship Spotters Society (PSSS), Mervin Go Bon Soon, Dwight and Shogun Shipping]

Roble Shipping Is Finally Sailing To Mindanao

Last month, September of 2017, Roble Shipping has finally sailed to Oroquieta, the capital of the small Mindanao province of Misamis Occidental (which actually hosts a lot of ports and among them are Ozamis and Plaridel ports). It is maybe the first port of call in Mindanao ever for Roble Shipping and it is actually a long-delayed move already for Roble Shipping as their namesake-to-the-city Oroquieta Stars has long been in the news that she will sail for that city and port since late last year (but since then although the ship is already ready she was just sailing for Hilongos in Leyte).


Source: Oroquieta City LGU FB account

I have been observing Roble Shipping for long already and watched its consistent growth both in passenger shipping and cargo and even in cargo RORO LCTs in the recent years. But I am puzzled with their moves or more accurately their lack of moves in developing new passenger routes that their cousin shipping company and Johnny-come-lately Medallion Transport which with their courageous moves in developing new routes seems to have already overtaken them in passenger shipping (it even reached Mindanao ahead of them when Medallion’s Lady of Good Voyage plied a route to Dipolog).

Roble Shipping is actually one shipping company that has more ferries than routes, the exact opposite of another shipping company I am also observing which is Trans-Asia Shipping Lines Inc. (TASLI) which in their tepidness in acquiring replacement ferries has more routes than ferries now. Does that mean the two shipping companies needed a merger? Just a naughty thought but that is actually impossible now as Trans-Asia Shipping Lines took the easy way out of their troubles which is selling themselves to the Udenna group of new shipping king Dennis Uy which is flush in money nowadays and might not need any help.

I remember that before Roble Shipping has an approved franchise to Nasipit but they never got about serving that route from Cebu. To think they had the big and good Heaven Stars then, a former cruiseferry in Japan then which should have been perfect for that route. However, that beautiful ship soon caught unreliability in her Pielstick engines and I thought maybe that was the reason why Roble Shipping was not sailing the Nasipit route (which actually had the tough Cebu Ferries and Sulpicio Lines serving it then and might really be the reason why Roble Shipping was hesitant).


But then calamitous fate befell Sulpicio Lines when they got themselves suspended after the horrific capsizing of their flagship Princess of the Storm, sorry, I mean the Princess of the Stars in a Signal No. 3 typhoon in Romblon. In the aftermath of that Sulpicio Lines sold for cheap their Cebu Princess and Cagayan Princess to Roble Shipping in order to generate some immediate cash and anyway the two ships were suspended from sailing and were of no use to them.

With the acquisition of the two, suddenly Roble Shipping had some serious overnight ships after the Heaven Stars which was then not already capable of sailing regularly especially when the good Wonderful Stars already arrived for them to compete in the Ormoc route. And one of the two was even a former pocket liner, the Cebu Princess. One of the two is actually a veteran of the Nasipit route, the Cagayan Princess which was fielded there when Sulpicio Lines already had a better ship for the Cebu-Cagayan de Oro route (the ship was named after that city actually as it was the original route of that ship) and their Naval, Biliran route bombed.

But no, the two ships just collected barnacles in the Pier 7 wharf of Roble Shipping, not sailing. I thought maybe there were still ghosts prowling the ships as they were used in the retrieval efforts on the capsized Princess of the Stars. Or maybe they wanted people to forget first as denying the two ferries came from Sulpicio Lines is difficult anyway.

The Cebu Princess and Cagayan Princess finally sailed as the Joyful Stars and the Theresian Stars but not to Nasipit but to Leyte (again!). I thought maybe Roble Shipping got cold feet in exploring Mindanao. And to think the service of the once-powerful and proud Cebu Ferries was already tottering then and everybody knows Gothong Southern Shipping Lines won’t last long in the Nasipit route with their Dona Rita Sr. (they eventually quit and sold their passenger ships).

With a surplus of ferries in their only routes which are all to Leyte (Hilongos and Ormoc), eventually their legendary cruiser Ormoc Star rotted in Pier 7. Soon, Roble Shipping got a reputation of laying up a lot of ships in Pier 7 (this is very evident when one takes a ride aboard the Metro Ferry ships to Muelle Osmena in Mactan island). They are all huddled up there including the cargo ships. Maybe as protection for the cold so they won’t catch flu (rust, that cannot be evaded).


Taelim Iris, the future Oroquieta Stars

Two sisters ships also joined the fleet of Roble Shipping, the former Nikel Princely of Aleson Shipping Lines of Zamboanga and the former Filipinas Surigao of Cokaliong Shipping Lines. The two became the Blessed Stars and Sacred Stars in the fleet of Roble Shipping, respectively. However, although one route was added, the Baybay route of the former Filipinas Surigao (which is again in Leyte) there was no other route except for the route they opened in Catbalogan in the aftermath of the demise of Palacio Lines, the Samar native shipping line. With their small ferries Roble Shipping also tried a route to Naval, Biliran which was formerly part of Leyte. I thought maybe Roble Shipping really loves Eastern Visayas too much that they simply can’t get away from it.

Two more ferries came, the former vehicle carriers TKB Emerald and Taelim Iris which slowly became the Graceful Stars and Oroquieta Stars, respectively (but then the Wonderful Stars was no longer wonderful as she was already out of commission after a fire in Ormoc port). Still the two just sailed to Leyte. And eventually, Roble Shipping quit Catbalogan which is a marginal destination to begin with because of the intermodal competition (trucks are loaded to western Leyte ports and just roll to Samar destinations and passengers also use that route). Roble then transferred the two sister ships Blessed Stars and Sacred Stars to become the Asian Stars I and Asian Stars II of the Theresian Stars, the new shipping company which was their joint venture with a former Governor of Sulu province. The two should have been alternating the the overnight Zamboanga to Jolo ferry route. But nothing came out of the venture and soon the two were back in Cebu. Technically, that was the first venture of Roble Shipping to Mindanao but not under the flag of Roble Shipping.


Oroquieta Stars just sailing to Hilongos, Leyte

I thought Roble Shipping was really allergic to Mindanao but soon I was disabused of this thought when the news came out that definitely Oroquieta Stars will sail to Oroquieta City after supposedly some requirements were ironed out. That is good as some things will then be tested. Oroquieta is actually too near the Plaridel port which competitor (in Leyte) Lite Ferries is serving and which the defunct Palacio Lines was serving before. Roble Shipping and Lite Ferries will practically be sharing the same market and I do not know if enough cargo and passengers will be weaned away from Dapitan and Ozamis ports but then Dapitan port is nearer to Cebu with cheaper fares and rates.

Oroquieta Stars is fast among the overnight ferries having relatively big engines and has a design speed of 16 knots. I just thought that if it is worthwhile for Cokaliong Shipping Lines to extend their Ozamis route to Iligan, won’t it be profitable for Roble Shipping to extend their Oroquieta route to Tubod in Lanao del Norte or to Iligan perhaps? Tubod can be one of the origins of the Muslim-owned commuter vans which have a route to Cotabato City via Sultan Naga Dipamoro or Karomatan (these vans go up to Kapatagan in Lanao del Norte).

We will have to see if Roble shipping can stick with the Oroquieta route as their competitor Lite Ferries take all challengers very seriously. Funny, but Roble shipping was much ahead of them in the Leyte routes. However, Lite Ferries is very aggressive and is easily the most aggressive shipping company in this decade taking away that mantle from Montenegro Shipping Lines (but then they might just have the same patron saint anyway but the favors and flavors might have changed).

Oroquieta Port

Oroquieta Port by Hans Jason Abao. Might be improved by now.

I wish Roble Shipping all the luck in their Mindanao foray and how I wish they will explore more routes because after all the availability of ferries is the least of their concerns (sabi nga sa bus krudo lang ang kailangan para tumakbo). That could also be their case. Plus franchise and some explorations maybe (well, if Medallion was able to use their cargo ships for that so they can too as they also have a lot of freighters now).

Sayang naman kasi ng mga barko nila.

The “Wonderful Stars” of Roble Shipping Lines

written by: Mike Baylon

The overnight ferry-RORO ship “Wonderful Stars” of Roble Shipping Lines of Cebu was hot in the news since yesterday, August 15, 2015 because of the fire which hit her in Ormoc City, Leyte, Philippines. She managed to dock and the fire was put out after about eight hours but the damages to the ship and cargo were heavy. However, except for two injured crew members there were no other casualties.

“Wonderful Stars” was the “Ferry Agata” when she was still sailing in Japan waters before she came over here. She was owned by the respected Japan regional line Kyushu Yusen K.K. “Ferry Agata” is among the many sisters commissioned by the company to sail their routes, among many other kinds of ferries.

Ferry Agata ©Wakanatsu via James Gabriel Verallo

This ferry was built by Naikai Zosen in their Taguma plant in Yard #445. Her keel was laid on February 10, 1979 and she was launched on May 9, 1979. After installment of equipment and sea trials she was delivered to Kyushu Yusen on July 14, 1979. She possessed the permanent ID IMO 7903809. She is not MMSI-equipped, however.

“Ferry Agata” was a two-deck, steel-hulled ship with the dimensions 71.33 meters LOA/64.01 meters LPP by 13.42 meters Breadth with a Depth of 4.63 meters and a Draught of 3.7 meters. Her freeboard was 930mm and she has high sides. Originally, she measured 1,296 gross tons with a net tonnage of 398 and capacities of 498 passengers and 50 cars. She had a service speed of 15.6 knots with a fuel consumption of 16 tons of marine diesel per day at average speed. She is powered by two Niigata diesel engines that totaled 4,200 horsepower driving two fixed-pitch propellers.

She came over to the Philippines in 2007 to belong to Roble Shipping Lines of Cebu. Scantlings and a passenger deck were added to her but her Gross Tonnage remained at 1,296 (which is a local measurement magic). Her Net Tonnage increased to 540, however, which seems to be a fair measure. Her declared Deadweight Tonnage or DWT is 546. Passenger capacity is over 800 now (however, some of that are “sitting”).

Wonderful Stars
Wonderful Stars in her glory days ©Mike Baylon

Her route here was Cebu-Ormoc and vice-versa and usually she take six hours of sailing for the route. “Wonderful Stars” usually have a full load of rolling cargo but a small portion the forward section of the car deck is used for loose cargo. In the Cebu-Ormoc route she was probably the best ship and among the biggest, at least in the regular sailers.

Having sailed with her I noticed that the Cabins seem to be original or at least the lay-out is original. The Tourist is in the middle with the Cabins on the side. On the rear of this same deck are the cruel fiberglass seats “specially designed” for six hours of sitting. On the upper deck which was added here are the non-air Economy Section and the restaurant. I will note that among intra-Visayas overnight ferries she has good food and service and the prices are moderate compared to other ships. No need to bring value meals from the favorite fastfood.

Wonderful Stars restaurant
Wonderful Stars Restaurant ©Mike Baylon

On August 14 evening she sailed from Cebu to Ormoc with over 500 passengers and a crew of over 60 (including apprentices, I guess, since the number is high). Also aboard were 23 vehicles with a few trucks (she is actually a favorite RORO ferry in the route with a liked departure and arrival times). A report said that at dawn abreast of Merida town in Leyte a small fire was noticed near the car deck. It is said that the ship was able to alert the port and she was still able to dock and unload passengers without casualty although smoke was already billowing. A few of the vehicles were able to get out but it reports say most were caught.

The fire raged for about eight or nine hours before it was put under control sometime past noon of August 15 and by that time she was already heeling to port. Hours of bombardment of water can do that to a ship and the pumps might no longer be working. She will not capsize and sink, however, because she is in shallow waters. Reports now say the owners are planning to tow her back to Cebu, maybe for better assessment and possible repairs.

©Capt. Lape onboard SuperCat

©Geraldine Astrologo Tan via Gabriel de Cadiz

©Keith Inghug
Wonderful Stars on Fire at Ormoc Port

The CEO of Roble said the ship is insured for PhP 60 million. The fire bureau estimates the damage at less than PhP 100 million (but I wonder what are their expertise in marine adjustment, the estimation of marine damage cost). The passenger compartments of the ship are gone along with the ship bridge and there were a lot of damaged or lost vehicles. However, it is said the engine room of the ship was spared and if this is true, the possibility of a successful repair and refit increases.

As things stand now if she will be repaired it will take months on end. However, Roble Shipping Lines is blessed with spare ships and they already have a new ferry being refitted in Pier 7 Mandaue, the “Taelim Iris”, a Cargo RORO sourced from South Korea but Japan-built. It seems she will be ready even before “Wonderful Stars”.

Wonderful Stars Aftermath ©Karina Sia via John Michael Aringay

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Wonderful Stars on Fire Video ©Lex Luther D. Caigas

More Photos of Wonderful Stars: CLICK HERE


by Mike Baylon

The ill-fated LCT378 ©MIke Baylon

The Deck Loading Ship “LCT 378” capsized and sank off the town of Catarman in the western side of Camiguin Friday afternoon, January 9, 2015, in light to moderate seas spawned by the northeast monsoon that is locally known as amihan.  Various reports put 26 or 28 crewmen have been rescued at sea by the passing “Tong Ying”, a big bulk carrier owned by Da Tong Shipping and managed by Ever Gain Shipping, both of Qingdao, China. “LCT 378” and “Tong Ying” are both MMSI-equipped. MMSI stands for “Maritime Mobile Ship Identity”, an automatic system for identifying and calling ships and land stations.

She was a Mongolian-flagged Deck Loading Ship owned and managed by Cebu Sea Charterers of Cebu. She was chartered to carry limestone from the Philippine Mining and Service Corporation (PMSC) in Garcia Hernandez, Bohol to the sintering plant of Philippine Sinter Corporation in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental.

The Garcia Hernandez loading port. ©Mike Baylon

The vessel was built by Jiangsu Longli Heavy Industry in Yangzhou, China. She has the ID IMO 9706982 with MMSI Code 457 900078. She measured 87.76 meters by 17.0 meters with a depth of 4.3 meters with a cubic volume of 1,770 gross tons and a usable space of 991 net tons. She was powered by Weichai and developing 900 kilowatts.

Open-decked ships carrying earth or ore have been known to capsize in rainy weather and rolling seas. Liquefication and shifting of cargo similar to” free surface effect” can happen in these conditions. Even the carrying capacity of the vessel measured in deadweight tons can be exceeded with the addition of water.

The Coast Guard has promised an investigation into the sinking.

[Ship Data Source:]