Filipino captain of ‘death ship’ admits to gun running and punching crewmembers

Sydney: The captain of the Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) controlled Sage Sagittarius has come in for a severe grilling in the second day of an Australian inquest into the mysterious deaths of three people onboard the vessel, which has been dubbed the ‘death ship’ by local media.

Two Filipino seamen, chief cook Cesar Llanto and chief engineer Hector Collado, died on the Sage Sagittarius in August and September 2012 as the Panama-flagged vessel was en route to Australia.

Then a Japanese superintendent, Kosaku Monji, was crushed to death on a conveyor belt when the ship was docked in southern Japan on October 6, 2012.

The ship’s captain, Venancio Salas, has been accused of gun running, punching crew, and trying to cover up incriminating evidence. It is alleged that the cook, Llanto, was looking to report Salas to the International Transport Worker’s Federation in Australia over his bullying attitude.

Salas was giving evidence via video link from the Philippines today.

He admitted to punching crewmembers, big drinking sessions onboard and taking a commission for selling guns to crewmembers.

Counsel assisting the inquest, Philip Strickland said Captain Salas first heard of the plan to report him between 8am and 8:08am – just minutes after the cook was last seen alive.

Moreover, it was alleged the captain instructed crew to destroy a written complaint about his bullying attitude.

The inquest continues.



Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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