A Perfect Overnight Ferry?

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The ferry Filipinas Cebu of Cokaliong Shipping Lines Incorporated (CSLI) has always impressed me. Beautiful ship. Beautiful lines. Looks sleek. Looks modern, too. Her designers should be commended for designing a ship that does not look stodgy.

The ship is 81.5 meters by 14.0m by 4.9 meters with a Gross Tonnage (GT) of 2,726 which is higher than her Japan GT of 2,323. Maybe because of the additional scantling added in the bridge or navigation deck. With those dimensions, she has a maximum passenger capacity of 642 which is median nowadays for the bigger overnight ships. Some 1,689 net tons is available for revenue from passengers and cargo. The ratio of the net tons to the gross tons is high suggesting efficient utilization of space which means good design.

What impresses me most about this ship is her small engines but which is enough for an overnight ferry here that are no longer in races (well, anyway it was only the Cebu-Cagayan route which was known for great races before). She has only 3,600 horsepower on tap from two Niigata main engines which is really on the low sides of engines with her length and capacity. Well, many of the overnight ferries of the recent years of her size even has double her horsepower. And a “modern” one, the new Starlite Ferries has only a design speed of 14.5 knots from 3,650 horsepower and those are only 67 meters in length! If they simply borrowed the design of Filipinas Cebu they might have had a winner.

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The low horsepower suggests she is on the stingy side on fuel consumption. But she is not a slowpoke as her design speed or the speed when new is 16 knots which is better than that of the new Starlite Ferries. At her age of 23 years and with not much metal added, I reckon she is still easily capable of 14 knots which is median too now for the overnight ferries that are in the longer routes like Cebu to northern Mindanao. Well, I know the Cebu to Leyte ferries are slower because at an average distance of 60 nautical miles even if the sail only at 10 knots they will still reach their destination at dawn.

The almost-permanent route of Filipinas Cebu is actually the Cebu-Iloilo route, the longest direct overnight route from Cebu as of today at 180 nautical miles (through the northern route) which usually takes 14 hours to cover with the ferries doing that route. The Filipinas Cebu is actually the most beautiful ship to hold this route in the recent years, the most modern and also the youngest.

The Filipinas Cebu came to Cokaliong Shipping Lines in 2007 from Ise Bay Ferry or Isewan (Ise-wan) Ferry where she was known as the Mikawa Maru. She was built in 1993 by Naikai Zosen in Setoda, Japan. That means she was only 14 years old when she came here and few were the ships that were that young that came here in the recent years. She might have cost Cokaliong Shipping Lines more money to acquire but I think the company was lucky to have her as the reliable service that can be expected from her is long and besides her lines would still not yet look old or obsolete for many years to come. Well, in lines alone I would take her anytime compared to the new ferries of Starlite Shipping which look ugly (by modern standards) to me.

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This ship has two-and-a-half decks of passenger accommodations with the highest at the navigation deck. She has a poop deck with chairs and tables which is the usual Cokaliong Shipping Lines design. This part of the ship can be used for eating dinner, for lounging, for sundowners or just for meeting new friends. Of course it is always clean and well-scrubbed which is the Cokaliong Shipping Lines trademark. All parts of their ships are always clean especially the passenger accommodations.

The ferry’s accommodation is divided into 5 classes: Suite, Cabin, Tourist, Lounge and the usual Economy. The Lounge is more or less the equivalent of the Jetseater Class but better as the settee is better and it has more space. I noticed that for its distance the Cebu-Iloilo fares are cheaper per nautical mile compared to the Cebu to northern Mindanao and Cebu to Leyte routes. Maybe the Filipinas Cebu was assigned the long Iloilo route because she is not thirsty on fuel and so the fares are low.

With 14 meters in breadth, the Filipinas Cebu has three lanes for vehicles in her car/cargo deck plus loose cargo in the the nooks and crannies. However, what she usually loads are basically loose and palletized cargo which are handled by forklifts in the traditional Cebu style which means one forklift inside the car/cargo deck and one forklift outside passing to each other the goods.

I do not know if the Filipinas-Cebu is considered the flagship in Cokaliong Shipping Lines but maybe she is. In this company there is no default way of gauging this as they don’t sail the premier Cebu-Mindanao route which is the Cebu-Cagayan route. I can only guess with her name and the route she is holding that she might be the highest in the totem pole of Cokaliong Shipping Lines. Well, for size she is one of the biggest of the shipping company and at relative par with the other big ones like the Filipinas Nasipit, Filipinas Iligan and Filipinas Butuan. The Filipinas Iloilo and Filipinas Maasin are as big but they are already old, slow ships that are already past their prime.

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Photo by Cokaliong Shipping Lines Inc.

This ship like others in the Cokaliong fleet does a back-and-forth short route in her off-days which is her 7th day of the week. Though utilized all days of the week this ship has been very reliable with no reports of mechanical breakdowns.

With her size, speed and relatively small engine plus her looks might be the best overnight ferry around in Cebu. Even after nearly ten years of service here, she seems not diminished.

I guess she will still sail satisfactorily for many more years to come and along the way earn many more fans.

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The Third Filipinas Maasin

The Filipinas Maasin is a line of ships of Cokaliong Shipping Lines Inc. (CSLI) bearing the same name. The current, existing Filipinas Maasin that almost everyone knows is actually the third in that line. It is the first RORO (Roll On, Roll Off) Filipinas Maasin and the biggest in the series. Maybe it can also be added that she was the best in the three.

The first Filipinas Maasin was the third-ever ship of Cokalong Shipping Lines Inc., which was a hand-me-down cruiser ship from Trans-Asia Shipping Lines Inc. (TASLI) where she was known as the first Trans-Asia. However, the first Filipinas Maasin was renamed to the second Filipinas Tandag after the very first ship of Cokaliong Shipping Lines Inc. bearing that name caught fire in Mactan Channel during the Christmas rush of 1991. This ship was later sold to Roble Shipping Inc. in 1998 where she became the Cebu Diamond. In Japan, she was the Shimaji Maru.

Since there was no Filipinas Maasin (and so they lacked ships) and Cokaliong Shipping Lines names ships from places they are connected (the founders of Cokaliong has Surigao origins) and Surigao ships to Cebu traditionally call on Maasin at it lies near the route, another Filipinas Maasin was procured in 1992. This ship was known in Aboitiz Shipping Corp. by three names – as the second Aklan and the second Ormoc. Since there was much renaming in the ships then that results in confusion she should also be identified by her Japan origins where she was known as the the Yasaka Maru with the IMO Number 5395254 and she was built in 1960. Later she was also sold to Roble Shipping where she became the Leyte Diamond.

The third Filipinas Maasin arrived in 2000, a year after the arrival of her sister ship, the Filipinas Iloilo. Their coming, along with other ROROs was part of the whole-fleet conversion of Cokaliong Shipping Lines into ROROs which began in 1997. That was the reason they consecutively sold the Filipinas Siargao, the Filipinas Tandag and the second Filipinas Maasin.

The third Filipinas Maasin was built as the Utaka Maru in Japan in 1980 with the ID IMO 8014887. She was built by Sanuki Shipbuilding and Iron Works in their Takuma yard. The ship has a steel hull with bow and stern ramps as access to her single-level car deck which is divided in the middle. Hence, she is classified as a RORO (Roll-On, Roll Off) ship. She has two masts but only a single stylized center funnel (and that bisects the car deck into two), a raked stem and a transom stern.

Her external dimensions, as built, is 81.3 meters length-all by 14.8 meters extreme breadth by 4.6 meters depth. The ship’s gross register tonnage (GRT) as built was 999 tons and her load capacity was 250 tons in deadweight tonnage (DWT). She was equipped with two Daihatsu marine diesels of 1,600 horsepower each for a total of 3,200 horsepower. That propelled her to a top sustained speed of 14 knots when she was still new.

In 1992, she was sold to China where she was known as the Zhong Hai No.3. Then she was reconveyed to South Korea the same year where she became a dedicated Jeju ferry. Jeju island is the famed island for vacationers and honeymooners in South Korea. Her name there was Car Ferry Cheju No.3. Cheju is another transliteration equivalent to Jeju but Jeju is the name now more used internationally like when a ferry there capsized and sank.

The ship was taken by Cokaliong Shipping Lines from Busan (formerly known as Pusan), South Korea and was conducted from Aug. 19 to Aug. 26 in 2000. The conduction took double the usual duration because the ship had to take shelter in Ikema Shima island in Japan because of a strong typhoon. A 12-man conduction crew manned the ship during the voyage that ended in Cebu.

Upon refitting, the gross tonnage (GT) of the ship shot up to 2,661 nominal tons with 1,684 nominal tons in net tonnage (NT). The DWT of the ship also rose significantly to 674. As of now the passenger capacity of the ship is 704 in 4 classes: Suite, Cabin, Tourist and Economy. There are only two passenger decks with the upper one all-Economy. The rear of that deck is a poop deck which serves as the viewing deck of the ship.

The upper classes are in the forward section of the lower passenger deck. This ship has a canteen (not a kiosk) in the airconditioned section and it has seats and tables around and this serves the lounge of the ship for the upper classes. At the rear of the lounge are additional bunks of the Economy class. Economy class passengers have also access to the canteen and can also seat themselves at the lounge.

She has two prominent passenger ramps at the stern which leads to two wing-type passenger passageways at each side which has curved blue plastic roofing, a Cokaliong trademark. She also has two side ramps at each side to assist loading and unloading of cargo. In the main, her cargo is not the rolling type but loose and palletized cargo handled by forklifts which she carries aboard. When newly-fielded here her top speed was already down to 13 knots but that was still enough for the Cebu-Maasin-Surigao route.

I have memories of this ship because she was the first-ever ship of Cokaliong that I have sailed with. I was not yet aware of the legendary cleanliness of the Cokaliong Shipping Lines and I was amazed. I have long sailed with liners and she easily beats most especially when there was no WG&A yet. However, I disembarked in Maasin from Surigao as I will transfer to a Manila bus (but that was one experience I half-regretted, the time I was still in the trial and error mode in rides in the eastern seaboard). My main regret was with the bus connection then (I was too early for the buses in Maasin and I did not know Maasin becomes a deserted place when the ship leaves; but things are different now). I just rode Filipinas Maasin because I want to try Cokaliong and the Surigao-Maasin route.

I also recommended this ship to a friend travelling from Davao to Bicol. But I told him not to get Tourist accommodation but only Economy and stay the whole time there at the lounge. The difference in the fares will be enough for the food and drinks ordered at the canteen. When he travelled the first bus from Maasin is already earlier and Filipinas Maasin is already slower and so she arriver later than before. I even warned him not to tarry too long at the port lest the Philtranco bus pass him because it will be another hour of wait with only mosquitoes as company.

In her earlier days, Filipinas Maasin was the main ship of the Cebu-Maasin-Surigao route of the Cokaliong Shipping Lines. It still is somehow but she also got assigned extra routes especially in her weekly off-day schedule.

In the last few years, she got smokey and her speed dropped. That was about the time she and her sister ship was offered for sale (but there were no takers). There was rumors that her engines were no longer that strong and sometimes we noticed she was arriving past her arrival time. But she is not the type that was conking out. Aside from legendary cleanliness Cokaliong Shipping Lines was also known for rigorous maintenance of old ships. Like clockwork their ships will enter the shipyards every two years for drydocking.

Their paint will also not be left tarnished while sailing. That was why I was furious about one article done by a Hongkonger in Shippax International. That idiot who only visited here said the livery choice of Cokaliong was done “to better hide the rust” (actually all his articles of Philippine ship companies was very derogatory save for one). We ship spotters know that is completely baseless and we know Cokaliong takes care of its ships very well. I actually protested to the late Klas Brogren, the Shippax founder who is a friend of PSSS (Philippine Ship Spotters Society). That article on Philippine ships was first offered to a former Moderator of PSSS and he declined but he did not inform me. If he offered that to me instead I would have gladly wrote that article about Philippine ship companies.

Last year, we noticed Filipinas Maasin was taking an unusually long time in Ouano wharf in Mandaue. We later learned she will be re-engined with brand-new Weichai marine diesels from China.

Filipinas Maasin is again sailing now in her old route. Noticeably, the thick smoked has vanished (before her smoke can almost hide a building). She is also a little faster now. We also learned from sources before she and her sister Filipinas Iloilo is off the market now. It seems Cokaliong Shipping Lines will already ride them for the long term. They should, the interior is still good. She does not look worn or aged. No need to waste her like the TASLI ships Trans-Asia and Asia China.

I expect to see her sailing for a long time more.