Filipinos dominate the global seafaring industry, accounting for around 30 percent of the world’s seafarers. Vice Admiral (Ret) Robert Empedrad, administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority, explains why this is so to Liz Lagniton, Philippine correspondent, Maritime Fairtrade.
The Philippines has been the world’s biggest supplier of seamen since 1987, making the Southeast Asian nation the manning capital of the world, with Filipinos accounting for approximately 30 percent of the world’s 1.6 million seafarers.
While shipowners are hiring more sailors from Vietnam, Myanmar and China in recent years, the majority of ships’ crew remains Filipinos, even with the going wage rate of US$1,000 per month, compared to the $600 to $800 per month for Indonesians.
Building a good reputation
Seafarers from the Philippines remain the favorite crew of many shipping companies, more than any other nationality, according to the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).
“The crew preference of many foreign shipowners are seafarers from the Philippines, and the demand increased over the years, making them the most sought-after seafarers in the global shipping industry even in this time of the pandemic,” Marina administrator Robert Empedrad told Maritime Fairtrade.
“Over the years, Filipino seafarers have built a good reputation among shipowners because of their hard work, dedication, and impressive performance while onboard a ship.”
Living on an archipelago consisting of more than 7,600 islands, Filipinos are able to relate to the sea and are atop the seafaring game due to their perceived commitment, hard work and passion at their maritime workplaces.
Empedrad, who served as the Philippines Navy’s flag officer in command (Chief of the Navy) before becoming head of the maritime industry regulator, said: “Filipino seafarers are known to be competent and resilient. They are able to withstand any hardship and challenges while onboard a ship.
“For example, the feeling of loneliness being away from their family, the frightening waves of the ocean making you nauseous, the darkness when you sail at night because you can’t see anything, the presence of pirates, and the challenge of making the ship safe always.
“These are among the many challenges Filipino seafarers have to deal with while onboard a ship.”
Top 7 traits
For years, many countries have trained their sights on the jobs held by Filipino seamen but Empedrad believes that maritime employers across the globe will remain willing to pay a premium for the following Filipino characteristics.
Filipino seafarers, before joining a ship, have to go through extensive training to be able to compete globally. They are highly trainable and not only technically-competent but can easily adapt to changing environment, social and professional conditions of the vessel while ensuring quality service.
Seafarers often encounter unconventional circumstances, face difficult situations such as bad weather, technical problem on the ship, and equipment failure, among others. But Filipino seafarers remain optimistic and maintain their focus on their work and are committed to the mission of their vessel. They are willing to sacrifice, despite being away for a long period, just to meet the needs of their family.
• Communication skills
Filipino seafarers are good at the English language. They possess a good command of written and spoken English. Even if not very fluent, they can understand and make themselves understood in English.
It’s undeniable that Filipino seafarers are very hardworking individuals. They are multitaskers who work hard regardless of the job location, be it on deck, in the engine room, or the galley. They are committed to their work. Oftentimes, they are working hard because they have to support their families back home, especially for those that are the only breadwinners in a big family.
They are reliable and trusted individuals who are essential in the workplace. They do their job and deliver what is expected of them by their superiors. They are willing to accept additional tasks too without whining.
With the large amount of time spent at sea, seafarers face great stress that is taking a toll on their mental health from adverse weather conditions, erratic situations at sea, and the seasons of the countries the ship is sailing to, among many others. Filipino seafarers have conditioned themselves to a certain level of tolerance that can withstand all of these challenges or any other kinds of odd circumstances, most of the time with a smile on their faces.
• Team player
Filipino seafarers are team players by nature and they work well together and with other nationalities too. They understand the importance of having a collaborative spirit to be able to work effectively onboard a ship.
Contributing to the local economy
The Filipino seafarers are making a significant contribution to the country’s economy. They send home on average $5 billion every year, which has contributed a lot to the country’s foreign exchange needs.
Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) showed that as of January this year, the number of Filipino seafarers deployed all over the globe reached 217,223 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Realizing the crucial role that seafarers are playing in contributing to the local economy, the government is further strengthening their competitive advantage through taking measures to halt malpractice, corruption, and other problems surrounding the industry.
“We are doing our best to ensure the interests of Filipino seafarers and to provide the best service for them. That is the desire and direction of Marina,” Empedrad said.