The first Princess of Negros (Photo credits: the “Commonwealth” and Gorio Belen
Many people when talking of the Princess of Negros which arrived in 1992 think she was the second Princess of Negros after the Princess of Negros which which arrived from Hongkong brand-new in 1962 and which did the Bacolod-Iloilo route. However, there was a prewar Princess of Negros which also arrived brand-new from Hongkong in 1933 which also did the Bacolod-Iloilo route and she was actually the first Princess of Negros and making the Princess of Negros that arrived in 1992 as the third Princess of Negros. Many do not remember now the first Princess of Negros because she was captured by the Japanese military in 1942 during the Pacific War, pressed into their service and was bombed and sank by US warplanes in 1944.
The second Princess of Negros (from the research of Gorio Belen in the National Library)
The third Princess of Negros was much bigger than the first two Princess ofNegros ships as she was a RORO liner whereas the first two were short-distance cruisers. When the third Princess of Negros arrived, she became the flagship of Negros Navigation Inc. Her routes then were only to Bacolod and Iloilo from Manila as Negros Navigation then still basically served Western Visayas ports plus the port of Cagayan de Oro.
When the third Princess of Negros arrived in 1992 she joined her sister ship in the Negros Navigation fleet which was the Sta. Florentina which arrived for Negros Navigation much earlier in 1983. The Sta. Florentina was the Okudogo in Japan while the third Princess of Negros was the Okudogo No. 2. Their Japan owners was the Kurushima Dock. No, the sister ships were not built in Shin Kurushima Dockyard. Before, a shipyard in Japan can also operate ferries as a prop to the shipping industry.
From the research of Gorio Belen in the National Library
The sister ships were actually built by Shin Kochi Jyuko Company in Kochi, Japan. Okudogo No. 2, the latter Princess of Negros was completed in July of 1973 and given the ID IMO 7323310. She was a RORO ferry with the dimensions 118.9 meters by 20.6 meters with a gross register tonnage (GRT) of 4,700 as built. Her load capacity was 1,664 in deadweight tons (DWT). This RORO had bow and stern ramps as access and the visor bow ramps continued to be operational here when most RORO liners had those welded shut.
The ship had a raked stem and a transom stern. She had two masts, a single center funnel and later full scantling unlike her sister ship Sta. Florentina. The time she was fielded was already the peak of ship passenger demand and big passenger capacities were needed. The ship had three full decks dedicated to the passenger accommodations (but not at the start) and her passenger capacity across six classes was 1,499 persons. Later, this even rose to 2,002 persons when full scantling were built on the ship.
Creation by Irvine Kinea
A significant portion of her accommodations was dedicated to ever-so-on-demand Economy section which occupied the sterns of the three passenger decks. The higher classes as well as the restaurants were on the forward sections of that. The bridge deck of the ship was exclusive for navigation and for the accommodation of the crew.
The third Princess of Negros had a single car deck that had about 400 lane-meters. She carried TEU and XEU container vans both mounted on chassis and not and also a few vehicles. Her actual declared capacity was 100 TEU. In the Philippines the third Princess of Negros had only 4,494 in gross tonnage (GT) and 1,291 in net tonnage (NT), a violation of the IMO rule that the net tonnage of a ship cannot be less than 1/3 of its gross tonnage. It is certainly an underestimation given she has full scantling. Her sister ship Sta. Florentina had 1,518 in net tonnage and it had no full scantling.
Photo Credit: Edison Sy
The design top speed of the Okudogo No. 2 was 18.5 knots and that comes from 4 Fuji 8M32CH4C engines that develops 10,400 horsepower which is the same powerplant of her sister ship. In the Philippines as the Princess of Negros she usually cruised at 17 knots which was good for a 20-hour transit time to Bacolod or Iloilo. In 1994 she was displaced as the flagship by the beautiful and sleek St. Francis of Assisi but she continued doing the Bacolod and Iloilo routes.
When Negros Navigation began its big expansion program starting in 1995 when Negros Navigation acquired six more bigger and faster liners in a span of just over two years, Princess of Negros no longer did the exclusive Bacolod and Iloilo routes. First, she was sent to the long Cagayan de Oro route in pair with the Sta. Ana. A little later, she was already doing the Roxas City route and in that time she was the best ship in that route.
Photo credit: Ray Smith
With the entry of the new millennium, the over-expansion of Negros Navigation bit hard and the company was hit by illiquidity and shipyards and suppliers filed suits of garnishment. After that, the ships of Negros Navigation were barely sailing. They did not sink completely, however, as a white knight in the person of Manny V. Pangilinan appeared. However, in the restructuring, routes were cut and many of the RORO liners of Negros Navigation were offered for sale.
During that time there was already a crisis in the liner sector as the passengers had already began drifting to the intermodal buses and budget airlines. Panay island liners were hit hard when the Roxas, Oriental Mindoro to Caticlan, Malay, Aklan route opened in late 2003. Very soon, intermodal trucks and buses began rolling to Panay island and immediately most hit were the ports and ships going to northern and western Panay island ports.
Photo credit: Ray Smith
The third Princess of Negros was laid up in Manila and for about two years she was appearing in ship-for-sale sites. There were no takers, however, and on 2007 she sailed to Bangladesh when she was bought by Chittagong breakers. She was eventually broken up on April 6, 2007 when she was still a good and reliable ship.
She served just a little over a decade in the Philippines.
Retrieved from the Old PSSS Website
written by: Mike Baylon
RORO means Roll-on, Roll-off. As distinguished to LOLO (Load-on, Load-off or Lift-on, Lift-off), RORO has cargo ramps and car decks and cargo is not lifted but loaded through vehicles that have wheels. Unlike cruisers that have cruiser sterns ROROs generally have transom sterns.
True ROROs started arriving in the Philippines in the 70’s. This does not include the LCTs which are also ROROs in their own right. The very first RORO could have been the “Millennium Uno” of Millennium Shipping. Japan database shows she arrived in the country in 1973. She is still sailing the Liloan-Lipata route.
After some lull the next true ROROs arrived starting in 1978 with the “Northern Samar” of Eugenia Tabinas Shipping Lines of Tabaco, Albay which was fielded in the Sorsogon-Samar route. The next to arrive could be the “Laoang Bay” of Newport Shipping in 1979. This ferry was also later known as “Badjao”, “Philtranco Ferry 1” and “Black Double”. MARINA database also shows “Viva Penafrancia – 9” of Viva Shipping, a steel RORO was built locally in Quezon in 1979.
Starting in 1980, arrivals of RORO in the Philippines stepped up and many even arrived that year while cruiser arrivals began to dry up. In 1980, the “Dona Lili”, “Dona Josefina”, “Don Calvino”, all of Gothong Shipping and the “Sta. Maria” of Negros Navigation arrived. The “Eugenia” of Eugenia Tabinas Shipping seems to have arrived this year also. In 1981 the Melrivic 7 of Aznar Shipping in Cebu came.
The first RORO built by the Philippine government to connect the Maharlika Highway, the “Maharlika I” came in 1982 and she was fielded in the Matnog-San Isidro route connecting Sorsogon and Samar. The second of the series, a sister ship, the “Maharlika II” came in 1984 and was fielded in the Liloan-Lipata route connecting Leyte and Surigao thus completing the Maharlika Highway connection. [Nothing is implied here that in was only in this year that Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao were connected as claimed by some.]
Many of the first ROROs were small. The liner companies did not dominate the first arrivals. It seems it is the provincial short-distance island connectors that first truly appreciated the RORO.
After a very short lull the next batch of ROROs arrived and they appeared in Batangas in the mid-80s. This was spurred by the arrival of “Tokishiho” (later “Emerald I”) of Manila International Shipping Lines to which the dominant Viva Shipping Lines of Batangas immediately countered with the “Viva Penafrancia” in 1985.
The first big RORO liners to arrive that rival the size of the big, fast cruisers were the “Sweet RORO” (1982), “Sweet RORO II” (1983) of Sweet Lines and the “Sta. Florentina” of Negros Navigation in 1983.
Sulpicio’s entry to the RORO mode started in 1983 with two modest-sized ROROs, the “Surigao Princess” and the “Butuan Princess” which later became the “Cebu Princess”. William Lines’ foray in RORO started only in 1987 with the “Masbate I”. This was followed by the “Zamboanga” in 1989. WLI’s entry in this field was relatively late and they paid with this by relinquishing the number 1 spot in the local shipping pecking order.
Before the 80s ended Sweet Lines has further added “Sweet Home” (1984), “Sweet Faith” (1987), “Sweet Baby” (1987) and “Sweet Pearl” (1989). Sulpicio Lines has also added “Boholana Princess” (1986). Meanwhile, Gothong Shipping already added the “Dona Cristina” (1985), “Our Lady of Guadalupe” (1986) and the sisters “Our Lady of Fatima” and “Our Lady of Lourdes” both in 1987. Aboitiz Shipping meanwhile also entered the RORO race in 1989 with the “SuperFerry 1”.
For a short time it was Gothong Shipping and Sweet Lines that was battling for superiority in the RORO field. However, in 1988 Sulpicio Lines added 3 big RORO liners that dwarfed all previous examples starting with the “Filipina Princess”, then one of the biggest and fastest ROROs in the world, the “Nasipit Princess” and the “Tacloban Princess”. They also added in that year the “Cagayan Princess”. With these additions Sulpicio Lines guaranteed they can never be headed in the RORO field and that stood true until WG&A came along.
Before the end of the 80’s, a Visayan-Mindanao shipping company also bet big on RORO and this earned the company number 1 in pecking order in that area. Trans-Asia Shipping Lines bought 5 RORO – the “Asia Korea” (1987), the “Asia Thailand” (1987), the “Asia Japan” (1988), the “Asia Brunei” (1989) and the “Asia Taiwan” (1989). They disposed some ROROs later (but always with replacements) until their progress was impeded with the creation of Cebu Ferries Corporation.
Meanwhile, smaller ROROs also sprouted in the same period in the provincial routes starting with the “Princess of Antique” (1985). Among the others are “Danilo 1” (1987) and “Danilo 2” (1988), now the “Lite Ferry 1” and “Lite Ferry 2”, respectively, the “Dona Isabel II” (1988) which was later known as “Bantayan” and now “Siquijor Island 2”, the “Princess Mika” (1988), the “Luzviminda” (1988), the ‘Stephanie Marie” (1989) of Aleson Shipping in Zamboanga, etc. In Batangas the likes of “Sto. Domingo” (1988) and “Viva Penafrancia 3 (1989) came and this was followed by a slew of Domingo Reyes ROROs in the next years until they dominated that port.
With that big statement of Sulpicio in 1988 the other long-distance liner companies have to respond and bigger and faster RORO liners came in the 90’s. William Lines created their “Mabuhay” line of luxury RORO liners and aided with their “Maynilad’. Aboitiz Shipping created their “SuperFerry” line. Gothong Shipping converted two RORO cargo ships and out came the “Our Lady of Sacred Heart” and “Our Lady of Medjugorje” augmented by the their big “Our Lady of Akita”. Negros Navigation continued their “Saints” series and out came the “Sta. Ana” (1988), the “Princess of Negros”, the “San Paolo” and the beautiful “St. Francis of Assisi” to be followed by the sisters “St. Peter the Apostle and “St. Joseph the Worker”. Meanwhile, Sweet Lines was not able to keep pace and soon dropped out of shipping in 1994. Also dropping out of passenger shipping were the lesser long-distance ferry companies which were not able to refleet to RORO. These were the Escano Lines and Madrigal Shipping.
Sulpicio meanwhile did not rest on their laurels in the first half of the 90’s. They topped their “Filipina Princess” with the “Princess of the Orient” (1993) and they also rolled out the formidable “Princess of Paradise”, the speed queen of the era. Also added to their fleet was the “Princess of the Pacific” and the lesser “Manila Princess” and “Tacloban Princess”. At the middle of the 90’s there was no question then which was biggest shipping company in the Philippines.
There was also no question that the previous decade ended with ROROs already beginning to dominate long-distance passenger shipping. However in other provincial ports, save for Batangas maybe, the RORO is not yet dominant.
The Sulpicio Lines hegemony of the early 90s suddenly changed with the merger of 3 major shipping companies to form the “William, Gothong and Aboitiz” or WGA which suddenly topped the fleet of Sulpicio even though it remanded lesser and older ships to subsidiary Cebu Ferries Corp. CFC then became the scourge of the Visayas-Mindanao shipping companies, most of which except for Trans-Asia Shipping were just in the very beginning of the RORO era like their Zamboanga counterparts.
Among those absorbed by the merger were the ships then underway or under refitting like “SuperFerry 12”, “Our Lady of Akita” which became “SuperFerry 11” and later “Our Lady of Banneux”, “Our Lady of Lipa”, “Mabuhay 5” and “Mabuhay 6” which later became the “SuperFerry 9” and “Our Lady of Good Voyage”, respectively. In the year of that merger, Sulpicio Lines responded with the “Princess of the Universe” and “Princess of the World” and Nenaco responded with the “San Lorenzo Ruiz” and the “St. Ezekiel Moreno”.
The gap between WG&A and Sulpicio Lines and Nenaco was actually narrowing before the end of the millennium as WG&A was intent of selling their “excess” and old ships and it not add any ship to their fleet until 2000. Meanwhile, Sulpicio Lines rolled out the “Princess of the Ocean” and “Princess of the Caribbean”, both in 1997 and the grand “Princess of New Unity” in 1999. Nenaco also added what turned out to be their flagship, the “Mary, Queen of Peace” in 1997.
In the provincial routes and ports the millennium ended with the RORO becoming dominant already. On its heels came the long-distance buses and trucks and the delivery trucks of the trade distributors. It can also be said that the requirements of these buses and truckers fuelled the growth of the short-distance ROROs connecting the nearer islands.
RORO liners primary carried container vans in trailer beds. Short-distance ROROs meanwhile primarily carried trucks, buses, jeeps and private vehicles. Overnight ROROs however primarily carried cargo LCL (loose cargo loading) or in pallets. Forklifts were the primary means of loading the cargo. Others call this system break bulk.
If the 90’s were marked by vibrancy and rapid expansion in the long-distance, liner section of shipping the past decade was marked by a long steady retreat of local long-distance shipping and with it the ROROs. This retreat was marked by 2 major spasms — the illiquidity of Nenaco and the suspension of Sulpicio Lines in 2008 after the capsizing of the Princess of the Stars. ROROs were sold and for varying reasons.
Nenaco can’t sustain its expanded route system and their ROROs were laid up and threatened with seizure by creditors. WG&A just wanted to get out of routes they deem were not earning enough. Moreover, Aboitiz has to pay off the divestment of William (the Chiongbian family) and Gothong from the merged company. Then world metal prices peaked and they cashed in on the bonanza. Sulpicio Lines meanwhile decided to sell their ships laid-up by the suspension.
Aside from external problems the long-distance shipping industry was also beset last decade by external threats. Early in 2000’s, the long-distance buses and trucks began to challenge the liners. This began in Samar-Leyte-Biliran. The leading shipping company, WG&A immediately retreated and left the three islands. Soon Masbate and Bohol was also under siege by the buses and lost.
A major factor in that development was the deregulation of the bus sector in the Bicol region and Eastern Visayas. The effect is bus companies sprouted like mushrooms, each seeking more routes, giving wider coverage. As a result passengers need not go to the major centers anymore and it offered the convenience of getting off right by their gates. Moreover, it has also the convenience of a daily departure and a wide choice of buses. As deregulated areas the bus companies were to free to offer low fares and freebies like free ferry fare.
In 2003, the overland route to Panay via Mindoro opened. In a short time came the influx of the buses, trucks and jeeps. The shipping routes to that island were soon under siege. If Nenaco’s withdrawal can be excused by their illiquidity, the leading shipping company, WG&A again simply withdrew without much struggle and just held on to Iloilo port where they are under siege again now. Like in Samar-Leyte-Biliran-Masbate-Bohol this Panay withdrawal of WG&A resulted in selling to the breakers of good ROROs for scrap.
The second major threat that emerged in the last decade was the emergence of regional container lines to major provincial ports. This provided direct access to foreign markets. And once a direct route is established loaded and empty container vans no longer have to be transshipped via Manila. Before this, the transshipment business was a big source of revenue for long- distance shipping.
Now an even more ominous development is the start of the chartering of banana growers of their own container ships. With their own ships they are no longer dependent on the routes of the container lines. Whereas now if a container line has no route to a certain market country of theirs then they still have to transship via Manila and use the local long-distance liners.
A minor threat as of now to long-distance ROROs is the emergence of LCTs as carriers of container vans. But a bigger threat is the inroads of long-distance trucking in the Visayas and Mindanao. The root of the problem is the high cost of charges via long-distance shipping and so they lose out.
Budget airlines will also take out some revenues from long-distance shipping. This is not critical because the bread and butter of long-distance shipping is cargo operations.
One beneficiary of these developments is the short-distance RORO sector which makes possible the island-hopping of the trucks, buses, jeeps and private vehicles. This sector is growing consistently while the long-distance sector is shrinking.
For the present, the sector of RORO liners is in crisis. Only ten long-distance RORO liners are left sailing in the country as of now.
The overnight RORO ferry sector is yet unaffected. The only affected portion of this is the companies with routes to Mindoro and Romblon.
The ROROs have eclipsed the cruisers. But the growth sectors now are the short-distance and overnight ferry sectors of the ROROs.