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The Future of the Filipino Seafarer

The Future of the Filipino Seafarer
Jerome Carlo Paunan June 26, 2023

Filipino seafarers are the backbone of the global maritime industry. With over 489,000 Filipino sailors working on ships all over the world in 2022, these workers keep the world's supply chains moving and ensuring the safety of both ship passengers and cargo.

However, these seafarers have faced a number of challenges while on-board or performing their duty. Many worked long hours while being away from their families for months at a time.

On the other hand, some sailors have worked in cramped and dangerous conditions, or have been exposed to hazardous materials, while some may not have had access to adequate healthcare.

Some seafarers from developing countries, such as the Philippines, have faced discrimination on ships and were reportedly paid less than other seafarers, or received less remuniration compared to other professionals in the maritime industry. Some were even treated poorly by their superiors.

There were even stories of them being trafficked into forced labor or tricked into signing contracts that they do not understand, resulting to them being forced to work in dangerous conditions with minimal or without pay.

Despite these challenges, Filipino seafarers continue to play a vital role in the global maritime industry. They are known for their hard work, dedication, and professionalism.

The Philippine government, for its part, is also working to address these challenges in its bid to improve the country's maritime industry.

No less than President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has expressed his administration’s admiration and support for the maritime sector.

"We are proud of our maritime heritage and our title as the Seafaring Capital of the World," President Marcos said. "We will always be grateful to our seafarers for what they have brought to our country."

The Chief Executive also called on government agencies and other stakeholders to work together to boost the country's maritime industry.

The President vowed to continue strengthening the maritime-related policies and protecting the welfare of the seafarers and their families.

President Marcos highlighted the importance of unity between the private sector and the government in the transformation of the transportation industry, including shipping, marked by the coming of new and sustainable fuels, and the deployment of digitalization and automation.

"To facilitate this shift, there is a need for the shipping industry to adapt and integrate new developments into their fleets, starting with the retooling of existing ships and the building of newer and more modern ships equipped with these new technologies," Marcos said.

"I am confident that, with all of us working together, we will navigate the turbulent tides ahead and chart a course towards a stronger and sustainable tomorrow for seafarers and the global community. May the winds be fair and the seas be kind to us as we embark on this journey together," he added.

Marcos also emphasized that investing in a highly qualified and well-trained workforce that will build, maintain and man the shipping vessels and "sail towards other opportunities" are significant parts of the change in the shipping industry.

The President reiterated his directive to the Maritime Industry Authority and the Commission on Higher Education to work closely with the shipping industry on the up-skilling and re-skilling of Filipino seafarers to prepare them for the shift of ocean-going vessels from using the conventional fuel sources to green ammonia between 2030-2040.

"Moreover, I enjoin all national government agencies, [multi-lateral] organizations, and private stakeholders to work together in identifying strategies to ensure the availability of skilled workers to fulfill the requirements of the shipping industry. This is expected to significantly increase by the year 2050," he added.

The President's call for unity to boost the maritime industry is a welcome one. The Philippines has a long and proud history of maritime trade, and the country's seafarers are some of the most highly skilled in the world.

By working together, the government and the private sector can ensure that the Philippines continues to be a leader in the global maritime industry.

"With all hands on deck, we must come together to envision and shape the future of the industry and global trade for the next 25 years. We can do this by identifying the skills required for the new generation of ships, discussing education and training requirements, and committing to a fair and just transition to build a future-ready and resilient shipping industry," he said. (PIA-NCR)