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Prolonged US-China trade war to hurt shipbuilding, seafarer hiring

Prolonged US-China trade war to hurt shipbuilding, seafarer hiring
Louella Desiderio - October 31, 2019 -

MANILA,Philippines — A prolonged trade war between the US and China could slow down seafarer recruitment in the Philippines, as well as in shipbuilding globally, the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association (NSA) said.

NSA chief executive officer Harald Solberg told reporters Tuesday, while the ongoing trade conflict between the US and China, which involves imposition of tariffs on each other’s goods, is not expected to have an immediate effect on recruitment of seafarers in the country, a protracted trade war could eventually impact on the hiring of new seafarers.

“We have the World Trade Organization and establishment of global value chain and globalization. If this trade war is a start of a reverse process, there is a possibility it could harm shipping and recruitment in the long term. But in the short term, I think it will not influence short term recruitment,” he said.

Should the trade conflict between the US and China continue in the next five years, he said he would be very worried.

Apart from recruitment, he said the trade war could also affect the shipbuilding industry globally.

“It can obviously lead to lower demand for new ships and that will harm the shipbuilding industry,” he said.

At present, he said there are already too many ships in some market segments, leading to reduced demand for new ships and the trade war may exacerbate this situation.

“I think that we have to prepare for some challenging years in the shipbuilding industry,” he said.

Norway, which ranks fifth in the world in terms of having the largest shipping fleet as measured by value, sees Filipino seafarers remaining as a vital part of its shipping industry.

To date, NSA members employ 20,000 Filipino seafarers.

“Their work ethic and flexibility have been important factors for our industry for several decades,” Solberg said.

Asked if the number of employed Filipino seafarers is expected to grow, he said the number is seen to be stable going forward.

Through the Philippines Cadet Program, NSA provides fully sponsored scholarships to develop next generation maritime professionals.

For the program, NSA has built a training center in Manila and partnered with select maritime institutions including thePhilippine Merchant Marine Academy; John B. Lacson Colleges Foundation-Bacolod; and University of Cebu-Lapu Lapu and Mandaue.

Solberg was in the country to meet with Filipino stakeholders, as well as discuss current trends in the maritime industry such as green shipping and digitalization.