A Guide to 2021 Filipino Seafarer Job Market

The Filipino seafaring job market is bullish.

The job market for seafarers is picking up in 2021 as the Filipino economy is restarting after months of lockdown last year. 

By Stanley Buenafe Gajete, Philippine correspondent, Maritime Fairtrade

As the world’s largest supplier of seafarers to the international fleet, the Philippines continues to deploy manpower to different countries even as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on amid lockdowns, travel bans and risk of getting infected.

Country Manager Philip Gioca of Jobstreet Philippines, one of the leading job-seeking online site in the country, said in an interview with Maritime Fairtrade that the seafaring job market is bullish, and opportunities are becoming abundant.  There will be more job offerings in 2021 but within the confines of the pandemic. 

The job market for other industries is not doing as well, including land-based overseas jobs, which is traditionally a strong market.  Gioca said “the maritime industry is slowly but surely progressing”.

“So far for 2021, we’re averaging around 50,000 jobs (in total) but we need to take into account that hiring budgets for the year are still being approved, and also the progressive roll-outs of vaccination in the cities and provinces.  So, the eventual numbers may be higher.” 

Right now, there are about 10,600 jobs for seafarers as listed in WorkAbroad.ph. WorkAbroad is another job portal owned by the SEEK Group (JobStreet’s sister company) focusing on overseas opportunities and seafaring works. 

“Application numbers increased two to three times compared to pre-pandemic levels,” Gioca said.

Top countries for seafarer jobs 

As of 5 January, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) deployed a total of 217,223 Filipino seafarers across the globe. 

The top countries where Filipino seafarers are deployed includes Panama (32,732), Marshall Islands (25,293), Liberia (24,789), Bahamas (22,221), Malta (17,942), and Singapore (13,674). 

Cyprus, Netherlands, Italy, and Hong Kong are also top countries for Filipino seafarers and there is a high demand there for seafarers. 

Top 10 vessels with Filipino seafarers onboard

  • Bulk carrier (56,256)
  • Passenger vessel (30,898)
  • Container vessel (27,116)
  • Oil/product tanker (20,431)
  • Chemical tanker (15,085)
  • Other tanker (10,730)
  • General cargo (10,030)
  • Gas tanker (6,661)
  • Pure car carrier (6,258)
  • LNG carrier (4,396)

Not enough applicants to fill demand

In Kalaw, Manila, the most popular area to look for maritime jobs, a lot of seafarers are sending applications to the recruitment companies there. But compared to thousands of applicants received every day before the pandemic, only hundreds are now willing to apply because of the very real risk of infection.

One of these is Virgilio Alupit, 39 years old from Central Philippines. He is patiently waiting for a response from an agency where he has applied for sea-based jobs after finishing a previous job and coming back to the Philippines. 

He arrived back in the country from Fujairah, United Arab Emirates (UAE) where he had worked as a Chief Officer on tankers, on 20 September last year. Previously, Alupit used to earn an average of US$5,200 per month. 

“I am applying now despite the threat of COVID-19 because I don’t have enough money to support my family. I don’t have any source of income now,” Alupit said to Maritime Fairtrade, explaining that he applied since 5 January. 

The former Chief Officer has three kids who are still studying, through distance learning. That’s why he said he “really needs to push myself in finding a job for the sake of my family.”

“I am still hopeful that I can find a sea-based job. I have completed and submitted all requirements. I can’t say when I will be employed, but some positions are a bit urgent according to the agency,” said Alupit.

No money for application fees  

24-year-old Nino Torrefiel is working as a “walking recruiter” in Kalaw. He has worked as a domestic seafarer before but since he does not have any money now to pay the application fee that is necessary to apply for a job, he is working as a utility recruiter. 

A utility recruiter works for free for a recruitment agency in exchange for a seafaring job offer. Utility recruiters are people who are willing to assist the manning agency without having to spend any money during the entire course of application. 

“I am working as a recruiter for four months now,” Torrefiel told Maritime Fairtrade. He reckons if he works for one year, he can have a sea-based job in exchange. 

“Many people from the provinces are taking their chances of working abroad despite the COVID-19 threat.  As long as they satisfy the requirements, I think they can still find jobs here,” he said. 

“Compare to before, fewer people are applying now for seafaring jobs for fear of COVID-19,” Torrefiel added, however, some are also “taking chances despite the risk because of money problems”.

Top 4 seafaring jobs in hot demand

  • Deck officer
  • Engine room officer
  • Deck rater
  • Engine rater

Other in-demand non-marine jobs

  • Administrative personnel
  • Electrical and electronic technician
  • Communications officer
  • Engineers
  • Food and beverage personnel
  • Catering personnel
  • Hotel staff
  • Seismic personnel

“We now have an average of only four or five applicants per day,” Arman Mayor, a recruiter in a recruitment agency, said to Maritime Fairtrade. “But before, oh my god, I have more than 10 applicants per day.” 

“So now it’s almost a year since the pandemic started, and we can see there’s job market growth coming in,” Gioca said. 

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Stanley Buenafe Gajete

Stanley Buenafe Gajete

Stanley Buenafe Gajete, our Manila-based Philippine correspondent, is a multi-platform photojournalist, using both images and words to report in-depth and investigative stories from the grounds.

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