The Best Places for Ship Spotting In Cebu

Retrieved from the old PSSS Website
written by: Mike Baylon

For ship spotters, there must be a good place where we can take good pictures of ships especially in Cebu which is the center of the maritime industry in the Philippines.

The most common way of ship spotting in the harbour of Cebu is to do a round trip ride on a Metro Ferry vessel to Opon, Lapu-lapu City from Pier 3 of Cebu City. One way trip would just take 15-20 minutes and you can take plenty of pictures from Pier 4 and 5 where the vessels of Roble Shipping Lines, Trans Asia Shipping Lines Inc. and Cebu Ferries Corporation usually dock. You can also take pictures of some cargo ships that are anchored in the channel. It would be much better if you would bring a digital camera that has atleast 5x zoom. The higher the zoom range is, the better.

Tommy 1
Tommy 1 ©Mark Ocul

While riding a Metro Ferry to mactan, you can also take pictures of ships located beyond Pier 5. The Carlos A. Gothong Lines‘ ships are dock in there wharf in Mandaue City. You can also try taking a picture of the Roble Wharf (Pier 7) and the Super Shuttle Ferry Wharf (Pier 8), still located in Mandaue City. Furthermore, try taking pictures of some passenger and cargo ships anchored in this part of the channel. The Ouano Wharf is also visible from here. The only problem in this part is the distance between you and the Ships is way too far. One-way ticket would cost P12.00 and a terminal fee of P1.00 will also be collected. Students and Senior Citizens will just be paying P10.00 and the P1.00 terminal fee. Just show a valid ID for you to enjoy the discounted fare. This style of ship spotting was discovered by some of the PSSS members in Cebu and is always used whenever we conduct a ship spotting activity.


Old Mactan Bridge ©James Gabriel Verallo


Marcelo Fernan Bridge ©James Gabriel Verallo

Another good place to spot is the Marcelo Fernan Bridge (also called the new bridge or the 2nd bridge) which connects the separate islands of the mainland Cebu and Mactan. You can take pictures of ships that would pass under the bridge. This is the only way we can have aerial shots of some specific ships. The only thing in this place is the heat of the sun especially when you go up there at noon time. But on the right side of the bridge, the side that faces the north, there is a small waiting shed-like there and you can have a good shade there while enjoying the cool air.

The authorities already have installed security cameras around the bridge for them to make sure that the place is secure and nobody would attempt to jump and commit suicide there. Also, don’t cross to the other side of the bridge when you are located at the middle part of the bridge or don’t look too much at the people located at the bottom of the bridge because if you do so, authorities will get your attention through their P.A. system installed at the bridge. They will warn you with “Hoy Dong, Ganina raman ka, unsa may plano nimo? Mu-ambak?” (Hey kid, you have been there for quite sometime already, do you have plans to jump?). I already received this warning once, haha!

You can also ship spot at the mini-park located below the bridge. The tips of the bridge both have a mini-park. That is a very nice place to ship spot, an ideal place where you can unwind and be with yourself while waiting for the ship to pass by. This is also a beautiful place for you to have dates with your girlfriend and talk about important matters between you and her (and believe me, the place is such and ideal one! The girl will fall in love with you much more! Just bring a 1.5 Liter coke and some “Chi-chiryas” and presto, you will have a date!). This is also a perfect place where you can just hang out with your friends. Concessionaires and stores are also located on the area. This style of ship spotting was introduced to the group by Mr. Jonathan Bordon.

I have not completed the list of the ships that would pass here during day time but here are some of the ships that will pass under the bridge:

Day Ship Estimated Time
Daily: MV Lite Ferry 11/8 11:15 – 11:30AM
MV Wonderful Stars 4:00 – 4:15PM
MV Theresian Stars 4:00 – 4:30PM
FC Supercat 30/32 5:45 – 6:00AM
11:00 – 11:15AM
4:30 – 4:45PM
MV Beautiful Stars 1:15 – 1:25PM
MV Anstephen 5:30 – 5:45PM

Sundays MV Filipinas Iloilo 12:15 – 12:30NN
MV Filipinas Dapitan 12:15 – 12:30NN

Mondays MV Cebu Ferry 3 8:30 – 8:45AM
5:30 – 5:45PM

Tues/Thurs MV Cebu Ferry 2 8:00 – 8:15AM
5:30 – 5:45PM

Tuesdays MV Filipinas Cebu 12:00 – 12:15NN
MV Filipinas Iligan 12:15 – 12:30NN

Wednesdays MV Cebu Ferry 1 8:30 – 8:45AM
4:30 – 5:00PM

Fridays MV Cebu Ferry 1 12:10 – 12:20NN

Be there atleast 30 minutes before the schedule given above as they will sometimes pass earlier than expected.

Another ideal place to ship spot is in the mouth of South Reclamation Project (SRP). The location is just beside the Malacañan Sa Sugbo and is just a few meters away from Plaza Independencia and Fort San Pedro. You can catch ships that would ply from Mindanao and Bohol from this location. The BRP San Juan and some Cokaliong ships are visible from here. Bigger ships like the Superferry also pass here. And like the mini-park located below the bridge, this is also and ideal place for you to unwind. You can also watch the sunset from this location (bring your friends or your girlfriend here and they’ll probably enjoy the view and the air.) There are no concessionaires or stores on the area so buy your snacks before going there.

SRP SRP Park ©Aristotle Refugio

to SRP
SRP ©Vincent Paul Sanchez

I also have not completed the list of the ships and specific time that they would pass here during day time but here are some of them:

Day Ship Estimated Time
DAILY
FC Ocean Jet 3 Uncertain
FC Ocean Jet 5 Uncertain
FC Ocean Jet 6 Uncertain
FC Ocean Jet 8 Uncertain
FC Supercat 30/32 Uncertain
FC Star Crafts 1 Uncertain
FC Star Crafts 2 Uncertain
FC Seajet 11:15 – 1125AM
MV Jadestar Uncertain
MV Jadestar Tres Uncertain
MV Jadestar Seis Uncertain
MV Island Express II 8:10 – 8:20PM
MV Ocean King 1 Uncertain
MV Island Roro II 3:45 – 4:00PM
MV Kinswell II 4:30 – 4:45PM
MV Lite Ferry 6 4:00 – 4:30PM
MV Lite Ferry 9 Uncertain
MV Lite Ferry 12 Uncertain
MV Lite Ferry 15 Uncertain
MV Lite Ferry 23 Uncertain
MV Santiago de Bohol Uncertain

Mondays MV Superferry 12 3:45 – 4:15PM

Wednesdays MV St. Michael the Archangel 5:00 – 6:00PM
MV Super Shuttle Roro 3 4:00 – 5:30PM

Thursdays MV Superferry 12 4:15 – 5:00PM
MV Zamboanga Ferry 2:00 – 2:30PM

Saturdays MV Superferry 20 5:00 – 6:00PM
Sundays MV Super Shuttle Ferry 3 6:00 – 9:00AM
MV Superferry 21 8:00 – 8:30PM
MV Superferry 20 5:00 – 6:00PM
MV Filipinas Dinagat 12:00 – 12:15NN

The schedules above are subject to change with any prior notice, especially with the Superferries, Negros Navigation and Super Shuttle Roro. Probable cause of delay would be cargo loading. Nevertheless, this will be a very good place for ship spotters to spot. This place was discovered by yours truly and Vincent Paul Sanchez.

Informations on ships for sale and some ferries that were sold to other shipping companies are mostly found in Ouano Wharf. It is located in Mandaue City and is just a ride away from Parkmall Cebu or Cebu International Convention Center. In this place of ship spotting, you will find ships that are currently for sale or ships that are under maintenance. This is also a good source of informations on the fate of some ships, who bought them, what will be there route and some other questions that are related with the shipping industry. There is also a daily trip to Tubigon, Bohol and Camotes Island from here.

There are more ship spotting areas in Cebu but those mentioned above are the most accessible and nice on. These are some of the most basic way of ship spotting in Cebu and these are the most basic yet wonderful place to do it. So what are you waiting for? Come and ship spot with us!

Weesam Express 7 (sir boordz style)
Weesam Express 7 ©Jethro Rick Cagasan

M/V St. Thomas Aquinas

The MV St. Thomas Aquinas was a former 2GO liner that was rammed on the side by the container ship Sulpicio Express Siete of Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corporation (PSACC) just south of Mactan Channel near Lauis Ledge lighthouse on the night of August 16, 2013. She sank in a matter of minutes because the PSACC ship feared being a sinking casualty and she pulled back allowing water to rush inside the hull of St. Thomas Aquinas (this is what usually happens when there is an underwater gash in the hull). A total of 137 persons died in the collision and a large oil spill affecting Mactan island resulted. St. Thomas Aquinas was better known locally as SuperFerry 2 and she is included in the book “The Great Passenger Ships of the World” by Frank Heine and Frank Lose (the original title was in German), a book where the Philippine Ship Spotter Society (PSSS) was a contributor.

M/V Superferry 2 folio ©John Aringay

St. Thomas Aquinas started life as the Ferry Sumiyoshi of Meimon Car Ferry K.K. of Kitakyushu, Japan. She was built in the Onomichi yard of Onomichi Zosen and she was the sister ship of Ferry Hakozaki which was better known locally as SuperFerry 5 and later as the St. Joan of Arc of 2GO (this ship is still sailing). Ferry Sumiyoshi’s keel was laid on August 1, 1972, launched on December 19, 1972 and completed on March 20, 1973. Her Length Over-all (LOA) was 138.6 meters and her Length Between Perpendiculars (LBP) was 128.0 meters with a Breadth of 22.15 meters. Originally, her Gross Register Tonnage (GRT) was 7,270 with a Deadweight Tonnage (DWT) of 2,596.
Ferry Sumiyoshi was powered by two Mitsubishi-MAN diesels (MAN engines built under license by Mitsubishi in Japan) of a combined 15,200 horsepower which gave her a service speed of 19 knots. She carried the international ID IMO 7304663 and she was a RORO-Passenger (ROPAX) Ferry. The ship originally had one and a half passenger decks, two and a half cargo decks, a full bridge deck and vehicle ramps at the bow and at the stern. Her original passenger capacity was 900 and she was first fielded in the Osaka-Shinmoji route in Japan.

Ferry Sumiyoshi ©Fakta om Fartyg

In April of 1992 she came to the Philippines to become the Aboitiz SuperFerry 2 (also SuperFerry II) of Aboitiz Shipping Corporation where she was converted into a 4-deck multi-day passenger liner originally serving the Manila-Cebu-Cagayan de Oro route (displacing the SuperFerry 1 in the latter port of call). She was the first liner fielded again by Aboitiz Shipping Corporation in the Manila-Cebu route after the shipping company gave up on that route for paucity of suitable liners (they were however serving the Cebu-Leyte route).

Superferry 2 ©Britz Salih

As reclassified, she had a Gross Tonnage (GT) of 11,405, a DWT of 2,947 and a passenger capacity of over 2,643 divided into the following classes: Stateroom, Cabin (for 2 and 4), Tourist, Deluxe and Economy. Adding weight her depth rose to 8.2 meters and her service speed dropped to 17.5 knots which meant a transit time of 22 hours in the Manila-Cebu route. Having a folding rear mast she can pass under the Mactan bridge. Her car deck can accommodate 108 trailers (she loads “CHA-RO” or container vans mounted on trailers and parked separate from the tractor heads).

Superferry 2 ©Gorio Belen

Aboitiz Shipping Corporation did not provide free meals to the passengers then but the fares were a little lower compared to competition to compensate for that. A passenger then will have his choice of what to eat. One orders meal a la carte in the cafeteria that was centrally located which was open from early morning to just past midnight. Passengers can also lounge here and while away time and various drinks can be ordered any time. The first class passengers have their separate restaurant. There was also a disco-karaoke and a coffee shop.

The ship featured a lounge for upper class passengers and a lobby and front desk for everyone along with other amenities and offerings like a video game arcade, a kiosk and books/magazines and board games for rent and a beauty salon. The ship sides were open and served as passageway and it also served as a viewing deck and smoking area. The sun deck of the ship also serves as a promenade area.

Superferry 2 interior ©Wakanatsu

On January 1, 1996 she passed on to the merger company William, Gothong & Aboitiz (WG&A) and in the renaming of the ferries of the merged fleet she retained the same name as WG&A decided to use the SuperFerry brand with the lesser ferries branded the “Our Lady”, a brand from Gothong Shipping. Initially she held on to her same route but a little later she did other routes (but not the prime Cebu route). Then she was paired with SuperFerry 5 to do rotational routes and a little later more this pairing included the SuperFerry 9 (in rotational pairings WG&A matches the ferries in speed and size). Doing rotational routes that varied over time along with differing assignments and schedules were a WG&A trademark which was hard to track unless one monitors their advertisement in the dailies.

Superferry 2 in WG&A livery ©Wakanatsu

With the divestment of the Chiongbian and Gothong families in WG&A (with the notable exception of Bob Gothong), the company was renamed the Aboitiz Transport System (ATS) in 2003. With sizable sell-off of ships (liners, overnight ferries and container ships), ATS found themselves lacking container capacity especially when they sold off SuperFerry 15, 16, 17 and 18. Part of their remedy aside from chartering container ships was to convert 4-deck liners into liners with only two passenger decks with two container decks. This halved the passenger capacity of the converted ships but almost doubled the container capacity. ATS thought this was the correct solution to declining passenger patronage and lack of container capacity (but later developments proved them wrong).

As converted, the passenger capacity of SuperFerry 2 dropped to only 904 with only two Staterooms and two Cabins. With some engine efficiency adjustments the service speed went up to 18.5 knots (with a maximum equaling her old 19 knots) and with only a few passengers the ship tended to be very cold at night especially when it is raining. The ship moreover became an all-airconditioned ship. Her Net Tonnage (NT) dropped to 5,869. As a two-passenger deck ferry there was much less space for passengers to roam and amenities and facilities were less. The dining area of the upper and lower classes became shared.

Superferry 2 ©Mike Baylon

Later on with the buy-out of Aboitiz Transport System by Negros Navigation using the China-ASEAN Fund loan in 2012 she passed on to the newly merged company 2GO. She was renamed as the St. Thomas Aquinas and she did the Manila-Cebu-Zamboanga and Manila-Cebu-Nasipit routes among other always-changing routes and schedules. In 2GO she was still speedy but with more emphasis put on the declining cargo and because of that like other ships in the fleet she tended to be late because of delayed departures waiting for cargo.

St Thomas Aquinas in 2GO livery. ©Mike Baylon

To make up for lost time because she was four hours late, she was speeding in the early night of August 13, 2013 in Hilutungan Channel and in rounding the southern coast of Mactan island. The area is notorious for radar scatter because of the ship facing land formation with hills, towers and plenty of buildings and vehicles. Also rounding Mactan island the radar won’t give an image of the ships exiting Cebu port and Mactan Channel. The early night too is the peak departure time of ships leaving Cebu. Nearing Lauis Ledge and the reefs of Cordova, Mactan and the narrows and shoals off Talisay, Cebu, the ship barreled into the narrowing shipping lane at over 16 knots when ships were expected to do 15knots or less in that area where the shipping line is curving like in a continuous arc.

At that time Sulpicio Express Siete with an ice-classed bow (reinforced as she was originally a Baltic Sea ship) was exiting Mactan Channel at slow speed. Meanwhile, Trans Asia 9 which was late in departure was catching up and asked permission to overtake on the right or starboard of Sulpicio Express Siete. The shallows of Talisay were looming ahead (a ship of Cokaliong Shipping Lines made a mistake here and ended up high and dry). So Sulpicio Express Siete gave her a wide berth and moved to the middle of the channel and slowed down a bit as she will be veering right soon as she was headed in the direction of Dumaguete while Trans Asia 9 is headed to Cagayan de Oro.

While the gap between Sulpicio Express Siete and Trans Asia 9 was getting bigger, the late-running Oceanjet 8, a fastcraft of Ocean Fast Ferries speeding from Tagbilaran moved into the gap between the ships and went into the starboard of Sulpicio Express Siete which was not her correct lane and in violation of maritime rules of the seaway. This had the effect of delaying of the veering of Sulpicio Express Siete in her correct lane in a shipping line with divider without marking buoys (AIS showed that at the time of passing of Trans Asia 9 Sulpicio Express Siete was slightly to the left of the median).

After Oceanjet 8 passed and when Sulpicio Express Siete was veering into her lane a reckless maneuver was made – St. Thomas Aquinas sped up and tried to follow Oceanjet 8, a classic case of brinkmanship. Ships don’t slow down and can’t maneuver like cars and the reinforced bow of Sulpicio Siete scraped against the hull and the passenger ramp of St. Thomas Aquinas, cut it up to below the waterline near the stern and the engine room. In moments, St. Thomas Aquinas had a fatal wound and power was knocked out and complete darkness fell in St. Thomas Aquinas with the bow on Sulpicio Express Siete lodged inside the rear hull of the 2GO liner. Some passenger took advantage of this momentary coupling of the two ships and jumped to the bow of the container ship. They were among the luckier ones because in minutes it was obvious their liner was stricken with a mortal blow worse than the Italian liner Andrea Doria.

Timeframe of collision ©Marinetraffic.com/Jeth Casagan

While the Andrea Doria had a good design that limited water intrusion and which kept her afloat for many hours St. Thomas Aquinas was a RORO which lacked watertight doors and compartments. When Sulpicio Express Siete reversed screws and disengaged she immediately developed a dangerous list and she capsized within minutes not affording enough time for proper evacuation which was made more difficult by the darkness. Trans Asia 9 also did not come to the rescue unlike the French liner Ile de France which illuminated Andrea Doria and launched lifeboats to the rescue.

Immediately after the accident charges and counter-charges of fault and recriminations were hurled and mainly by 2GO and netizens were quick to blame PSACC, the former Sulpicio Lines. Their former bad reputation hurt PSACC’s case in the bar of public opinion and it was even made worse by the fact that it was their ship which rammed and sank the other and was beyond the median line initially. Almost to a man almost everybody was blaming PSACC except maybe PSSS and a few others including mariners who understand COLREG (Collision Regulations) which governs rules of the road at sea. A Special Board of Marine Inquiry (SBMI) made an investigation that drew mainly on eyewitness account which tend to be biased depending of which ship they were boarded. In PSSS we noted there was almost no use of AIS which is the ship’s transponder and St. Thomas Aquinas was visible because their MMSI module was active and that gave her location, direction, speed and identity along with other data. It was her AIS which said she was overspeeding and she crossed the bow of the PSACC ship, a maneuver not permitted unless the other ship gave permission (this was also established later by the official investigation report).

Damage on Sulpicio Express Siete ©John Cabanillas

After over a year, the Philippine body tasked with determining fault, the Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) determined liabilities and this was affirmed by their supervisory body, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). It sidestepped a purely COLREG-based decision and instead looked at other technicalities. The result said the St. Thomas Aquinas was mainly at fault because it held that ships moving out of port have priority over incoming ships. The report also noted a collision could have been avoided if both ships slowed down especially since they are not in radio contact.

Up to now the remains of St. Thomas Aquinas still lay near the collision site and lays precariously by her side in a sea ledge like the Costa Concordia. The maritime authority has already decided that 2GO should remove her as she poses hazard to navigation. Meanwhile, the municipality of Cordova is pressing payment for damage to their mangroves and fishing ground due to the oil spill in the aftermath of the sinking. Victims are still seeking further compensation while the two captains directly involved in the collision remain suspended. The other ships involved were not called to bar to answer for their actions.

Pumping oil from the remains of M/V St. Thomas Aquinas

Now, the liner St. Thomas Aquinas is just a memory but a bitter one at that especially for the victims who are not holding on to solid hopes as deadly maritime accidents in the Philippines take the courts up to over a generation to make a final decision.

MORE PHOTOS HERE: https://www.flickr.com/photos/29421855@N07/sets/72157632985526375