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Marina holds consultations to resolve issues on onboard training

Marina holds consultations to resolve issues on OBT
October 6, 2021

The virtual public consultation conducted recently by the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) on the long-overdue guidelines that will regulate the one-year required onboard training (OBT) for aspiring marine officers was met with strong opposition from some quarters.

More than 500 participants via zoom and Facebook Live joined the consultation to gather industry feedback on Marina's draft circular on the Guidelines for the Onboard Training of Cadets on Philippine-Registered Ships Engaged in Domestic Shipping. Participants came mostly from maritime schools, shipping companies, industry and professional associations, as well as training centers.

One of the more controversial provisions of the proposed guidelines is on the health and insurance coverage of "at least P250,000 for each cadet to be shouldered by the shipping company" that is engaged in OBT.

The country's biggest group in the local shipping industry, the Philippine Inter-Island Shipping Association (PISA) registered its opposition. Stressing that PISA members are not in the business of providing education and training, PISA Executive Director lawyer Peter Aguilar argued that it would be a burden to shipowners. It should be the maritime schools that should foot the bill for the cadets' insurance.

Aguilar also expressed the same position on two other provisions that say "cadets shall be provided with suitable accommodation on board for the whole duration of the OBT" and "cadets shall be allocated with appropriate life-saving appliances while the ship must meet the minimum occupational safety and health protection."

He stressed that all these would require a significant cost on the part of shipowners if these would mean additional cabins and extra liferafts or lifeboats for those accommodating cadets.

On the last two concerns, Sam Batalla, officer-in-charge of the Manpower Development Service of Marina, who presented the draft circular, countered that Marina's proposal is only consistent with the Labor department's Department Order No. 129 s. 2013 which sets the standards for cadets onboard ships engaged in domestic trade.

On the maximum number of cadets that can be accommodated on each ship, the draft circular says that "each officer (of the ship) may be assigned with not more than three cadets per work shift of watchkeeping duties."

A representative of one maritime school complained that the provision limiting the maximum number of cadets to only three (3) would further reduce the intake of cadets in domestic shipping and, as a result, more would not be able to complete the BS Marine Transportation (BSMT) and BS Marine Engineering programs (BSMarE).

Again, Batalla pointed out that the draft says "per work shift" so with three (3) officers in a 24-hour operation, which is usually divided into three shifts, a ship can accommodate a maximum of nine (9) cadets in the deck department and another nine (9) in the engine department.

He also added that it would be mandatory for STCW qualified ships, meaning 500 gross and above powered by 750 kW engines, engaged in the domestic to accept cadets.

Aguilar raised his concern over the statement which has an obvious significant impact on shipowners and ship operators belonging to PISA.

The PISA lawyer's opposition to Batalla's statement is seconded by former Marina director for overseas shipping and IMO Regional Coordinator for East Asia Atty. Brenda Pimentel. She stressed that, so far, no law gives Marina that authority.

Marina Administrator Vadm. Robert Empedrad commented that if Marina would not make it mandatory, local shipowners would not take in cadets.

Pimentel has proposed that by raising the qualifications of marine officers in the domestic and aligning them with officers deployed overseas, local shipping companies would have no choice but to take in cadets to train them to serve in their fleets.

The issues and the discussions that cropped up during consultation only indicate that in providing the guidelines for OBT, the Maritime Administration would not be able to please all the sectors involved in this important requirement in complying with the STCW Convention.