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EU’s final audit hangs over PH seafaring industry

EU’s final audit hangs over PH seafaring industry
Roy Mabasa February 23, 2020

The proverbial “sword of Damocles” hangs over the head of the Philippines’ seafaring industry as it faces the final audit by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to determine the country’s fitness to continue deploying seafarers into European waters.

From February 24 to March 13, 2020, the EMSA will conduct the inspections that include visits to the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), three assessment centers and nine maritime higher education institutions (MHEIs) located in Manila, Zambales, Cebu, Tagbilaran, and Iloilo areas.

According to a briefing paper provided by the European Union, the audit is geared to ensure that the Philippines is compliant with the provisions of the International Convention on the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) requirements.

“The inspections are aimed at verification of the system in place and include visits to the maritime administrations and maritime education and training institutions. In a country such as the Philippines, the number of these institutions is around 100, consequently, a representative sample is chosen,” the EU said in the paper obtained by the Manila Bulletin.

More than 30,000 Filipino ship officers bearing certificates of recognition issued by European ship owners will be left jobless should the Philippines fail to hurdle the final inspection to be carried out by EMSA.

According to the EU paper, the inspection of MHEIs institutions were selected by EMSA based on the high number of students and their relevance to the European Union (EU) fleet, being a good sample to ensure that all the information presented in the factual report is representative of the current situation in the Philippines.

Considered as a major provider of seafarers globally, the Philippines was first inspected and re-assessed in 2006 when it was already found to be “not complying in full” with the STCW requirements.

In subsequent EMSA audits conducted in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2017, the results were astonishingly the same: The Philippines was not complying with the STCW.

In particular, EMSA is very strict in implementing the STCW provisions on training facilities and procedures of countries supplying seafarers to European flagged vessels.

After the last inspection, the European Commission said it agreed to delay the next inspection to 2020 to “allow the Philippines to take corrective actions” and to implement Executive Order 63 signed by President Duterte in September 2018, which gives MARINA more power to implement and enforce the STCW Convention.

At the same time, the European Commission informed the Philippines that 2020 would be the “final inspection” before a decision on extending or withdrawing the recognition by the EU is taken.