Recognizing their role in the country’s economic growth, first-time Filipino seafarers will be issued the seaman’s book (seafarer’s identification and record book) free of charge, following the approval of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) board.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade made this announcement during a televised briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte on January 24.
“First-time applicants of the seaman’s book will no longer pay P1,000 ($20) to P1,800 ($36) because it will be free,” Tugade said, adding that the maritime authority also discounted the renewal fees of expiring seaman’s books by 50 percent until December 2022.
A little help for Filipino seafarers
“This is a little help and our contribution to make the lives of our seafaring heroes easier,” Tugade said.
Robert Empedrad, the Marina administrator, said that aside from the lost economic opportunities, Filipino seafarers are among the most-affected workers in the country because of the extraordinarily lengthy time they were prevented to return to work because of Covid-19 lockdowns all over the world.
“This initiative aims to provide relief to our Filipino seafarers amid the pandemic. With this, we will at least reduce the cost of processing documents. Marina only wants to continue to listen and wholeheartedly fulfill the wishes of our seafaring heroes who continue to help lift the country’s economy during the health crisis,” said Empedrad.
Marina, meanwhile, will continue to seek ways to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the seafaring community and the maritime industry in the country.
Welcoming the new Marina guideline
Some maritime organizations have welcomed the decision of Marina saying it is a timely relief for Filipino seafarers amid the pandemic. One of these is the Marino Party, which represents seafarers’ interests in the Philippine House of Representatives.
“The Marino Party-list welcomes the decision of the Marina to issue free seaman’s books for first-time seafarers,” congressman Sandro Gonzales of the Marino Party-list told Maritime Fairtrade.
“This is a very timely relief for our people who want to try their luck as seafarers, considering the financial difficulty most of our countrymen are experiencing now because of the pandemic,” Gonzales said.
Given the new development, Gonzales said, “I am sure those who want to secure a seaman’s book will line up in offices that accept applications for and the release of the document. Let’s expect a lot of people to apply for a seaman’s book.”
However, Gonzales said there should be appropriate procedures for applicants to follow in line with the minimum health standards, like the wearing of face masks as well as observance of physical distancing.
“If anyone who is applying has not been vaccinated, they should not be banned, but there should be a protocol for them to follow so that they do not get infected or spread the virus if they are infected, just in case someone infected them and they do not know. It is also better for our seamen who have not been vaccinated to be vaccinated because this is the minimum requirement for them to be deployed,” he said.
“With the expected surge of applicants, I would like to suggest to Marina to authorize their satellite office in our Marino Action Center in Ermita, Manila to accept and process seaman’s book applications in addition to the existing Marina services that we are providing, such as Certificate of Proficiency (COP) and Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) processing.”
Update on vessel detained for alleged drug smuggling
Additionally, Gonzalez gave Maritime Fairtrade an update regarding the 14 Filipino crew members of the Liberian ship MV Trudy who are still detained in France after authorities intercepted their vessel near Dunkirk for alleged drug smuggling.
Last month, Marino Party-list sought the assistance of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) on behalf of the families of the detained seafarers.
“With the detained Filipino seafarers not earning income, the economic condition of their families here in the Philippines is gravely affected as no more money is being remitted to provide for their needs,” Gonzalez said in a letter to OWWA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac, dated January 18, 2022.
Gonzalez said the employment contracts of the 14 seafarers have also been terminated already by their principal, Columbia Ship Management.
“In this connection, may we appeal for your compassion and extend assistance, financial or otherwise, to their families,” Gonzalez wrote Cacdac.
To date, OWWA has already reached out to Marino Party-list about the contact details of the family members in the Philippines.
The seafarers have been allowed to be released temporarily pending their trial and their manning agency is also asking OWWA if they can help in finding accommodation for them, according to Marino Party-list.
Top image credit: iStock/ Igor-Kardasov