Contributed by: Don WinnerMANILA -- Authorities are now scouring the waters off Ilocos Norte province after a foreign cargo vessel with 20 crew members sank late Friday. Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson Lieutenant Commander Algier Ricafrente said that the Hong Kong Maritime Rescue Coordinating Center reported that it received a distress call from the Panamian-flagged vessel, MV Oceanic Union. Ricafrente said the vessel was passing through the waters of the province when it encountered mechanical trouble. He said that the ship’s 20-man crew quickly took their life boats, indicating the vessel was already in a sinking condition, long before it radioed a distress call. Lieutenant Dennis Rapat, head of the PCG in Ilocos Norte, said that upon receiving the report, he ordered a search and rescue operations since Friday night. He said MV Oceanic Union was spotted about 170 nautical miles from Cape Bojedor. The vessel was heading to Subic Bay west of Manila from Shanghai when the incident happened. Based on the report received by PCG, the captain of MV Oceanic Union ordered his crewmen to abandon ship when he saw the vessel was already sinking after it developed mechanical trouble. Rapat said the whereabouts of the vessel's crew remained unknown. The PCG is now coordinating with other maritime agencies to retrieve the stricken seamen as soon as possible. It also appealed to residents near the coastal areas of Ilocos Norte to report to the PCG if they see the cargo vessel and any of its crewmen. Other ships passing through the area have been notified. (AP/PNA/Sunnex)
Editor's Comment: Panamanian newspapers are reporting that the 20 missing crewmen have been rescued, but I can't find it anywhere else, on the wires, or what have you.