You are here

SEAFARERS’ JOBS AT STAKE: PH risks dropping out of global maritime list

SEAFARERS’ JOBS AT STAKE: PH risks dropping out of global maritime list
CARMELA I. HUELAR March 18, 2019


THE JOBS of 400,000 Filipino seafarers and the country’s good standing in the global maritime community are at stake because of the country’s supposed failure to comply with global reporting standards.

This was learned from industry sources and a copy of a document containing the minutes of a meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW) during its sixth session this year.

The document indicates that he Philippines could be excluded from the IMO “White List.”

Being on the list means the country complies with minimum qualification standards for masters, officers and watch personnel on seagoing merchant ships, under the revised 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) of the IMO, a United Nations agency.

This also affirms the capacities and diligence of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) in ensuring the competencies of Filipino seafarers, which took over the functions of the abolished Maritime Training Council under the Department of Labor and Employment.

The Philippines was included in the White List for the third time when it was last released in 2011.

The revised list in Annex 2 of the IMO document obtained by The Manila Times did not include the Philippines.

The United Kingdom (UK), Norway and Panama were also not on the list. The UK and Norway, however, are mainly shipowners and have little seafarer supply to speak of.

The IMO document states: “This revised list excludes those Parties that either have not submitted their subsequent reports or have submitted them outside the time periods prescribed so that they are still under consideration by the competent persons.”

The latest development raises the question of whether Marina, the agency tasked to implement requirements of the amended STCW 78 convention was indeed unable to comply with the prescribed period of submission in 2017 of its compliance report.

An industry stakeholder who did not want to be named said this would have a “grave “implication and the list might as well be the ‘White List.’”

“The global shipping community and port state control might start questioning the authenticity of all certificates issued to Filipino seafarers. Imagine this, against the fact that more than half of the global fleet is manned by Filipinos,” the source said.

‘Severe repercussions’
Marina came under fire from President Rodrigo Duterte last year — the Chief Executive fired its administrator, Marcial “Al” Amaro 3rd, for excessive foreign trips, including to IMO meetings in London.

Amaro was replaced by former military chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero, who was said to have ordered Marina’s STCW department to attend IMO meetings to be updated with IMO audits, before he was transferred to the Bureau of Customs last year.

“How are you going to explain now why the Philippines was not included in this initial revised list because it was not able to make it in time? This despite the fact that I think we were given more than enough time for it,” the industry stakeholder said.

Former Marina Administrator Vicente Suazo also confirmed that the IMO document could have severe repercussions.

“Yes, the implication will be very damaging. Marina should move heaven and earth to find a way, starting [this] week, to get in touch with IMO soonest, with the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs and make arrangement to come up with solutions. Marina was supposed to attend to this IMO requirement since Amaro’s time.”

In a phone interview, Amaro said he submitted the STCW compliance report in 2017 and insisted it was received by the IMO.

“What should have been submitted in 2018 as claimed by Marina after my stint is not another report on how we should comply, but its implementation already,” Amaro said.

Amaro said there was no scheduled audit on 2017 and said that some IMO officials themselves stressed that the report submitted at that time should have been the last report on plans and compliance based on the amended STCW 1978 requirement.

IMO audit set
A Marina insider, however, denied this, claiming the IMO Secretariat did not forward the report to the IMO HTW Subcommittee because “the Report did not respond to what was required by the Convention.”

Guerrero had formed a team to review the Philippine report submitted to the IMO, but initially “could not locate that PH report because there was nothing that was endorsed to him,” the Marina insider said.

Guerrero was later able to get hold of the report from the IMO in London. He also asked the IMO to conduct an independent evaluation on the country in September.

The incumbent Marina administrator, Narciso Vingson, resumed the work and is preparing for the IMO independent evaluation tentatively scheduled before the end of the second quarter of 2019, the source said.

The Marina source said the result will determine “whether or not the Philippines will remain on the White List.”

Lawyer Brenda Pimentel, former IMO regional coordinator in East Asia and a The Manila Times columnist, said the IMO document “appears authentic,” but is not the White List.

“The document acknowledges the countries which have submitted the necessary documents that will attest to the country having put in place the necessary mechanisms that comply with the requirements of the STCW convention,” she said.

“In the revised list, Malaysia and Panama are not listed yet; and therefore, the Philippines may be putting up the necessary communications to IMO. The list will be updated I am sure to include those which have transmitted the communications. After submitting the documents that is when the IMO will make a determination if a country is to be retained in the White List,” she added.

She urged stakeholders to check whether Marina had complied with the “reportorial requirement under the STCW convention.”

She added: “I know that IMO is now doing a re-assessment of the White List by doing its own state audit. I do not know if the Philippines had been audited by IMO.”