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Port bottlenecks, policies hurt seafarer deployment

Port bottlenecks, policies hurt seafarer deployment
Samuel P. Medenilla August 14, 2020

Filipino seafarers of CF Sharp (
THE existing “bottlenecks” in the country’s ports, as well as policies which are costly for ship owners, now threaten the employment of thousands of seafarers, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said on Thursday.

In an online forum on Thursday, TUCP president Raymond Mendoza said the limited number of passengers allowed in the international airports per day, as well as the designation of the port of Manila as the sole seaport where crew change could be done in the country, greatly reduced the number of deployed seafarers.

This is worsened by the “problematic” implementation of the supposed green-lane policy of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) because of the differences in the manner it is being implemented by concerned agencies.

Mendoza warned this could discourage foreign shipping companies from hiring Filipino sailors, especially at a time when they need a fresh crew to replace those who have overextended their duties because of the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

These limitations affect at least 180,000 OFWs who are expected to be deployed abroad from July to December this year.

Aside from departure issues, TUCP vice president Luis Corral also raised the concern of the Joint Manning Group (JMG) on how the government is requiring ship owners to pay for the tests and quarantine expenses of Filipino sailors.

“This is making the cost of our seafarers expensive for the shipowners,” Corral said.

Because of the additional cost, shipping companies may opt to hire sailors from Ukraine, Eastern Europe, Vietnam, China and Indonesia, instead of Filipinos, he explained.

Unless these issues are addressed, they could cost the country its spot as the world’s top source of seafarers for international vessels, he added.

“The Philippine seafaring industry, which accounts for 25 percent of all seafarers in the entire world, is one of the few remaining economic drivers and dollar earners of our country,” Mendoza said.

“TUCP fully supports sustaining the seafaring industry and preventing its collapse. We are number one in the industry and let us keep it that way,” he added.