Filipino seafarers are renowned in the maritime industry for their excellent work ethics and continue to stay the top choice of shipowners. Foreign shipowners prefer Filipino seafarers because of their dedication, discipline, English fluency, problem-solving capability, adaptability, and positive work attitude. Filipino sea-based workers make up over 20% of 1.5 million mariners worldwide, becoming the largest nationality bloc in the maritime industry.
Because of this preference for Filipino workers and the high salary and incentives that come with being a seafarer, hundreds and thousands of Filipinos aspire to work in the maritime industry each year. Many want to board the European Union (EU) flagged ships. According to Marine Insight, one in every five foreign seafarers of EU vessels from Greece, Germany, Malta, and Norway is from the Philippines.
Unfortunately, this dream of crewing EU vessels by many Filipino seafarers is currently at risk of not happening due to the Philippine government’s non-compliance with specific maritime standards. Maritime news in Singapore, the Philippines, and other Southeast Asian countries has picked up on this story, but it seems as though the Philippine government acted indifferent for months. This article discusses this issue more.
The Current Status of the Philippine Maritime Industry
From as early as February 2022, there were already warnings that Filipino seafarers posted in EU-flagged vessels were at risk of losing their jobs if the Philippines did not comply with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW Convention). The International Maritime Organisation enforces these standards to keep seafarers safe while at sea.
However, despite early warnings, the Philippine government continued to act poorly for months. With the coming national elections, this issue has been pushed farther away. In November, news about the possibility of Filipino seafarers losing their jobs broke the headlines.
Notably, the deployment of new Filipino seafarers to EU vessels and the jobs of around 50,000 others now working on EU-flagged ships have been at risk due to the Philippines’ failure to comply with the training, certification and watchkeeping standards for seafarers (STCW) requirements. According to the House committee on overseas workers affairs, it was informed in October that the final evaluation by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) of the Philippines’ STCW compliance was set in November.
Fortunately, despite fears of it, the EU has refrained from imposing a ban on Filipino seafarers. According to the Philippine Transportation Agency, despite complaints from EMSA, the Philippines did not fail in the recent compliance audit on training programs and accreditation systems for the country’s seafarers.
The Possible Effects of Continued Non-compliance
Although the Philippines did not fail EMSA’s recent compliance audit, there are still many complaints from the agency that need to be addressed by the Philippine government to not affect the employability of Filipino seafarers, particularly in European countries. Of the complaints raised by EMSA, concerns about the country’s training standards and studies curricula are the most prevalent.
These concerns have been raised from as early as 2006. However, to this day, the curricula in the Philippines are still not up to par with international standards and are still in a period of adjustment. Should the country continue to fall short on matters like these, it would be at risk of decertification by the Committee on Safe Seas. Although decertification would not lead to the immediate termination of active seafarers on board EU vessels, it can negatively affect the employability of Filipino seafarers inside and outside the EU.
As such, thousands of Filipino seafarers might lose their jobs, and more than $6.38 billion of annual remittance will be at risk of loss if the Philippines continues to fail the global standards in maritime certification, education, and training. Today, the EU has given the country a deadline of one year for corrective measures to be adopted accordingly.
The Filipino spirit alone could not save Filipino seafarers from the risk of losing their jobs due to non-compliance with maritime standards. Although they are widely known for their excellent work ethics, an immediate response from their government to the concerns raised by EMSA for years is necessary to remain competent and employable in the industry. No matter what the current trends in freight and shipping industry are, these maritime standards decide whether a seafarer is fit for the job.