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PH manpower capital of the world – IMEC

PH manpower capital of the world – IMEC
Yashika F. Torib November 4, 2020

The International Maritime Employers Council (IMEC) recognized the Philippines’ position as the manpower capital of the world despite the crew change crisis and the reported concerns over the authenticity of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) tests obtained in the country.

The UK-based organization of foreign shipowners backed the Philippines ‘ capability to supply 50 percent of the world’s seafarers by launching a quarantine and testing facilities for Filipino mariners in Manila.

The project, launched last October 28 in partnership with the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP), provides a one-stop-shop for swabbing and quarantine facilities for Filipino seafarers. IMEC and ITF reserved 100 and 200 single occupancy rooms in Marriot Hotel, Manila, and St. Giles Hotel in Makati, respectively for this project.

It also took on the services of a third-party security company that will assist with the monitoring of the quarantine phase. Blockchain technology will also be used to render tamper-proof test certificates that can be verified by the local authorities of the receiving country.

Meanwhile, AMOSUP will provide its government-approved testing facility to process the tests.

“There are three largest nationality groups in the IMEC Membership — Manila, India, and Ukraine, which accounts for almost 80% of all seafarers employed on our members’ vessels. The challenges in India and Ukraine are much less at the moment, and the Philippines still accounts for 50 percent of our crew, hence, why we started in Manila,” says Francesco Gargiulo, chief executive officer of Imec.

Gargiulo added that the Manila-based facility is a trial that, once proven to be successful, will be expanded to other seafarer supply giants such as India and Ukraine.

“Our current focus is making [this facility] a success and getting as many countries as possible to endorse it such as Singapore and Australia,” Gargiulo said.

Accommodation, food, and testing costs will be shouldered by the manning agency of the seafarers while the encrypting of test results and quarantine certificates through block-chain technology will be placed under the IMEC-ITF grant.

“We are doing this for the benefit of our members and the shipping industry at large, and spending a lot of money in the process. All we need is for good employers to realize that cutting corners is what got us in the current situation and that a cheap solution is not going to make things better but rather jeopardize the Philippines as the manpower source of choice for our industry. Many members are already exploring alternatives [in place of Filipinos] and we are working hard to secure Filipino jobs,” Gargiulo explained.

|The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) deployment numbers show a year on year decline of 240,000 between the first eight months of 2019 and the same period for 2020. “Some of this is due to Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and some on the way the country dealt with it. The worry is that some of those jobs will not come back once the employers have moved elsewhere,” he opined.

AMOSUP to process tests in own molecular lab

AMOSUP’s newly built 90-square meter molecular laboratory proved beneficial to IMEC and ITF’s one-stop-shop facility in Manila.

The Seamen’s Hospital Molecular and PCR Laboratory was granted a cartridge-based license by the Department of Health (Doh) and started operating on September 1, 2020.

“The ITF Seafarers’ Trust helped us construct the laboratory. It was intended to give the union-run hospital the capacity to provide immediate results for seafarers especially because testing for Covid-19 is crucial to ensure their unrestricted movement as key workers,” AMOSUP president Conrado Oca, said.

“AMOSUP union workers will monitor the seafarers who will be tested after their quarantine period and before they are transported for embarkation. The seafarers’ samples will be processed by the Amosup Seamen’s Hospital,” he added.

The union group-housed about 1,000 seafarers for four months at the height of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) when their employment applications and deployment processes were put on hold due to lockdowns. Apart from the free lodging on its Sailors’ Home and Mariners’ Home facilities, Amosup also provided free daily sustenance, regular check-ups, and medicines to the seafarers it took under its wing.

“Seafarers have always been the invisible workforce moving essential goods to ensure the global supply chain is unimpeded. But because of the Covid-19 pandemic, they were put in the spotlight – their plights, but more importantly, their significance to our nation’s economy, and the world over. I hope every Filipino will take a moment to appreciate their noble work and sacrifice,” he concluded.