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Philippine seafarers banned from sailing in Red Sea

Philippine seafarers banned from sailing in Red Sea
Mayen Jaymalin - April 25, 2024

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino seafarers are now barred from boarding foreign vessels sailing the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) yesterday issued an order prohibiting the deployment of Filipino seafarers onboard passenger and cruise ships set to sail through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

DMW released the order after the International Transport Workers’ Federation and International Bargaining Forum included the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in the list of “War-like Zones” or WLZs.

Under Department Order No. 2, licensed manning agencies (LMAs) are required to sign an “affirmation letter” guaranteeing that the vessels Filipino seafarers are set to board will not navigate the volatile sea lanes.

The letter, along with the vessel’s detailed itinerary, shall be submitted to the DMW during the documentation of crew employment contracts or before their deployment.

“The order intends to keep Filipino seafarers out of harm’s way,” the DMW said.

Filipino seafarers listed as crewmembers onboard the vessels must also sign the affirmation letter acknowledging their vessel will not enter the Red Sea or Gulf of Aden.

The affirmation letter executed by the LMAs with the seafarers’ consent must be uploaded to the DMW’s Online Processing System for Sea-based together with the processed Standard Employment Contract.

“This stringent measure ensures a transparent process, fostering accountability and compliance with the new safety protocols,” DMW noted.

DMW officer-in-charge Hans Cacdac reported earlier that a number of Filipino seafarers are already exercising their right to refuse sailing through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Cacdac gave assurance that Filipino crewmen refusing to sail would not be discriminated against and would be assigned to other vessels passing through safer routes.

He said sanctions shall be imposed on shipping companies and agencies not observing the prohibition and the seafarers’ right to refuse sailing.

A few months ago, Houthi rebels attacked bulk carrier M/V True Confidence while traversing the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The attack resulted in the death of two Filipino seafarers and the wounding of three others.

At this time, the Philippines is closely working with other governments on the safe release of 17 Filipino crewmen of cargo ship Galaxy Leader who were held captive by the Houthi rebels.

Following the death and abduction of seafarers on board foreign vessels navigating the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the DMW recommended the classification of the southern portion of the Red Sea and the entire Gulf of Aden as WLZs.

DMW also issued guidelines guaranteeing the Filipino crewmen of their “right to refuse” sailing to areas deemed high-risk or war-like zones.

A group of Filipino seafarers also sought the diversion of ships from the Red Sea to avoid another attack that recently resulted in the death of two Filipino crewmen.

The Associated Marine Officers and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP) has urged shipowners and principals to divert their vessels, regardless of the flag state, around the Cape of Good Hope until safe transit through the Red Sea can be guaranteed.

AMOSUP presented to the International Transport Workers Federation a firm consensus among seafarers’ organizations that the area of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden along the Coast of Yemen is unsafe for seafarers to transit amid escalating conflict.

The DMW and Philippine Maritime Industry Tripartite Council previously pressed for stricter protocols to ensure the safety of Filipino seafarers navigating the flashpoint region.