By Raymund Antonio
A cargo vessel has been seized by the Philippine Coast Guard in Tonquil, Sulu for carrying about 50,000 bags of allegedly smuggled rice.
PCG personnel aboard BRP San Agustin (MRRV 4408) found a steel-hull vessel named M/V Hulk in the waters off Bulan Island, Sulu on Friday, while they were conducting a maritime security operation in the area.
BRP San Agustin’s commanding officer Lt. Jeffrey Collado sent a boarding team to inspect the illegal rice aboard the ship, where they found 25 kilograms of rice in each bag.
There were no shipmaster or officers on M/V Hulk when the PCG team boarded the cargo vessel.
“According to the remaining crew of Hulk, the shipmaster and officers disembarked the ship through a motorized boat,” the Coast Guard said in belated report.
The vessel homeported Cagayan de Oro City and is registered under Key West Shipping Lines Corporation.
The PCG said the cargo ship went dead on water after it “encountered engine trouble and shut down” while it was headed to Zamboanga City.
According to the Coast Guard, BRP San Agustin, along with its other vessel, BRP Bagacay (MRRV 4410), had to tow the cargo vessel until it reached its port of destination.
M/V Hulk arrived at Bengo Wharf, Zamboanga City on Saturday and is temporarily under the custody of PCG awaiting inspection from the Bureau of Customs.