14 July 2008

SBMA Slaps Hanjin with Another Cease and Desist Order

Confronted with another fatal accident at the Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp.-Philippines (HHIC-Phil) shipyard here on Saturday, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) stopped operations of the Korean company on Monday and warned that it will impose further “legal and regulatory measures” should the shipbuilder fail to comply with health and safety requirements.

In a cease and desist order (CDO) issued by Atty. Ramon Agregado, SBMA senior deputy administrator for support services, the Subic authority told Hanjin to stop further activities and operations at its Assembly Shop C, the site of the latest accident.

The cease and desist order will be in effect for seven days.

Agregado also issued a seven-day CDO against Subic Han Sung Inc., a Hanjin subcontractor that employed Benje Gamolo, the latest victim of mishaps at the Hanjin facility, and ordered the firm to explain within 48 hours why its registration with the SBMA should not be suspended or revoked.

Agregado addressed the separate orders to HHIC-Phil president Jeong Sup Shim and Han Sung president Ryoo Kwon Taek on Monday.

According to SBMA investigators, the latest accident occurred on Saturday while Gamolo was working atop a beam at the Y2 section of the assembly shop.

An eight-ton girder assembly being lifted by a crane reportedly swayed parallel to Gamolo’s position and hit the victim’s back and left side of the body.

Gamolo, a 31-year old structural erector from Tatalon, Quezon City, died from the injuries the next day at the James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital in Olongapo City.

Agregado said the latest incident raises questions about compliance with occupational safety and health rules and regulations at Hanjin’s $1.6-billion shipyard, which has recorded a total of 13 fatal accidents since 2006.

He said that during the seven-day work stoppage, the SBMA and other concerned government agencies shall conduct a comprehensive and detailed inspection and investigation to determine whether HHIC-Phil Inc.’s Assembly Shop c is safe for the conduct of further operations.

“This shall be without prejudice to other sanctions, fines and penalties that may be imposed against HHIC-Phil Inc. as principal of Subic Han Sung Inc. should the latter be found guilty or remiss of its obligations to fully provide for the safety and health of its workers,” Agregado stressed.

At the same time, the SBMA official reminded Hanjin of the 30-day compliance period the agency has set jointly with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on June 18.

The DOLE-SBMA directive, Agregado said, required Hanjin to complete various occupational health and safety requirements, and to immediately enforce full compliance by its contractors, subcontractors, agents and other entities working in its premises.

“Should the 30-day period given to HHIC-Phil Inc. lapse without full implementation and compliance with all occupational health and safety requirements, SBMA shall be constrained to proceed with imposing the appropriate legal and regulatory measures to ensure the safety of all workers at HHIC-Phil Inc.’s shipyard and construction operations,” Agregado added.

This was the third time that the SBMA issued a work stoppage at the Hanjin project since the Korean firm began operations here in 2006.

Last June 20, the SBMA also slapped the Korean shipbuilder with a CDO after a steel formwork collapsed due to strong winds, killing one worker and injuring four others.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza, who ordered a suspension of work just minutes after the June 20 accident, had described the safety situation at the shipyard as “alarming” and warned that both Hanjin’s shipyard and construction operations would be suspended if the firm failed to comply with health and safety requirements.

Arreza had also recommended to the SBMA board the termination of contracts of three subcontractors who were found to have been remiss in implementing safety requirements at the project site. (SBMA Corporate Communications)