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80,000 Pinoy seafarers may lose EU ship jobs

80,000 Pinoy seafarers may lose EU ship jobs
WILLIAM DEPASUPIL February 1, 2018

AT least 80,000 Filipino seafarers on board vessels owned by the European Union (EU) may be affected or, in a worse-case scenario, may lose their jobs as a result of a leadership vacuum at the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).

This was pointed out on Wednesday by Capt. Gaudencio Morales, president, Integrated Seafarers of the Philippines, at the sidelines of a forum hosted by the multi-sectoral group Movement for Maritime Philippines (MMP) at the Manila Yacht Club on Roxas Boulevard.

According to Morales, they have no problem with the President’s pronouncement that Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, would take over as Marina chief upon his retirement in April.

“We are worried because there is a vacuum of three months. These three months are very crucial to the [seafaring]industry because of the EMSA [European Maritime Safety Agency],” he said, adding that during the period EMSA will conduct an audit on the Philippines’ compliance with Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STWC) to maintain the countrry’s white-list status in the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

It is important, Morales noted, for the Philippines to be able to comply so that the EU would continue to recognize the Filipino seafarers’ documents issued by Marina.

Marina is the country’s single maritime administration solely responsible for overseeing the Philippines’ compliance with international safety conventions.

“Said compliance has to be reported to the EMSA, which, in turn, will physically come to the country to conduct an audit to determine the veracity of the documents submitted by Marina,” Morales explained.

He said deficiencies seen by EMSA in its previous audits are yet to be addressed, including qualifty management and assessment and monitoring.

“How will you address or comply with quality management if there is no [Marina] administrator, no permanent deputy administrator and 90 percent of STCW office personnel are job order [ones]? We don’t know if they [job order people]are qualified or not,” Morales added.

He said of 350,000 Filipino seafarers currently on board various foreign vessels, 80,000 or 23 percent are on EU-owned vessels.

“In a worse-case scenario, if the 80,000 Filipino seamen will lose their jobs, that is equivalent to $1.2 billion or more than P50 billion a year in lost remittances,” Morales added.

But most likely, he said, the EU would no longer recognize the Filipino seafarers’ documents from Marina, and addressing the situation would require them to use documents from the ship’s “flag state” or the country where the vessel is registered.

“In short, the Marina as an authority will no longer be recognized by the EU. So the job of the administrator of Marina is very important, especially now that we have a problem with EMSA,” Morales added.

Marina is being supervised by an officer-in-charge, Department of Transportation Undersecretary Felipe Judan.
MMP head Merle Jimenez-San Pedro said not having a Marina administrator and deputy administrator is a disservice to the Filipino seafarers.

“As a maritime nation, our economy is principally fed by the maritime industry; it is our lifeblood. We could not afford to be complacent if our ranking as a seafaring /maritime nation becomes eroded among the international community of maritime countries,” she added.