Earlier this month, a news report quoted Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople as saying President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had stripped the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) of the task of overseeing the implementation of Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) for seafarers
It turns out, however, that Secretary Ople had been misquoted, and that MARINA will continue to supervise maritime training and accreditation in the country.
What is clear at this point, however, is the Philippine government must do everything possible to keep Filipino seafarers working in European vessels to retain their jobs.
The problem is the country has repeatedly failed to pass evaluation by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) in the past 16 years.
EMSA has given a final deadline this November for the Philippines to address the concerns it has raised.
Passing the EU audit is urgently necessary as failure to do so would adversely affect the country’s current standing as the top source of certified seafarers in the world.
Our seafarers send to their families back home around P376 billion in remittances annually.
The 2021 maritime transport report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) named the Philippines as the top provider of seafarers globally, followed by Indonesia, China, and India.
Over a quarter of all global merchant shipping crew members come from the Philippines, with 380,000 Filipino seafarers overseas as of 2019.
European shipping firms want Filipinos seafarers to fill up the shortfall in the number of Ukrainian maritime workers due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.
Before the invasion, Ukraine was the world’s sixth-biggest supplier of seafarers.
But Filipino seafarers in EU-flagged ships are in serious danger of losing their jobs since the Philippines has repeatedly failed to pass the EMSA audit for compliance with the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) since 2016.
Since 2016, the Philippines has repeatedly faced the possibility of a ban by the European Union on the hiring of Filipino seafarers after EMSA perennially raised concerns about the country’s compliance with international seafaring standards.
MARINA is the regulatory body and sole agency responsible for maritime administration.
The Philippines, being a member-state of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has designated MARINA as its Flag State Administration by virtue of an Executive Order.
It has also been designated as the single maritime administration responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the STCW Convention.
The European Commission, in whose name the EMSA inspections are conducted since 2016, is strict in enforcing the STCW provisions on training facilities and procedures of countries supplying seafarers to European flagged vessels.
The Philippine maritime training industry must institute the necessary reforms posthaste if we want our seafarers to keep their jobs so they can feed their families when they are out to sea for long stretches at a time.