FILIPINO seamen are among the best seafarers in the world but they need to continuously upgrade their skills and training to remain highly qualified amid an increasing demand and emerging strong competition from neighboring countries.
This was pointed out recently by Movement for Maritime Philippines (MMP) Chairperson Merle San Pedro, saying that majority of Filipino seafarers lack the needed education and training required to progress to officers’ positions.
“The truth is we are slowly being overtaken by other countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and even Myanmar because a lot of their seafarers have the required qualifications for international deployment,” said San Pedro at the weekly Tapatan sa Aristocrat forum in Ermita, Manila.
At present, she added, there is a demand of more than 16,000 Filipino marine officers, but that could not be met because of lack of facilities that could provide them the needed training and skills as ship officers.
San Pedro stressed that it is high time that government take a closer look at maritime schools to make sure they comply with the needed educational competence, skills and training to compete with their foreign counterparts.
She called on maritime education and training institutions to review their curriculum and improve their training standards to meet the requirements for specialized ships, including LNG and LPG carriers and chemical tankers, and cruise liners.
Earlier, Nicon Fameronag, president of Lilac Center for Public Interest Inc., disclosed a 8.3-percent drop in remittances of seafarer in January 2017.
Fameronag, a former Department of Labor and Employment undersecretary, said it is imperative that DOLE, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Professional Regulation Commission, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority; and the Maritime Industry Authority and Commission on Higher Education to sit down and jointly consider mapping a “K-12” program for Filipino seafarers to ensure the competitiveness of the Philippines as a maritime torch-bearer in the world.
“The Philippines has lost out to China, which is now the world’s No. 1 supplier of all seafarers, especially of officers. The Philippines has retained the first spot as the largest supplier of ratings, but China is close at No. 2. Sooner or later, if the government does not get its acts together, even Indonesia could eat up our share in the maritime labor market,” he said.
In 2015, POEA records show that the Philippines deployed 93,992 officers, a growth of only 0.33 percent over the deployment of officers in 2014. On the other hand, ratings deployment went down by 4.31 percent, from 154,963 in 2014 to only 148,283 ratings in 2015. The POEA has no report yet on seafarer deployment for 2016.
Fameronag pointed out though that while January 2017 seafarers’ remittances of $410.250 million—lower by 8.3 percent than the $447.466 million Filipino seafarers remitted in January 2016—do not at all establish a trend, it is a portent of things to come, considering the host of challenges Filipino seafarers face in the global market.
He said the Philippines should heed the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO), the world’s largest shipping association, and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which have recommended the promotion of careers at sea, and the improvement of the levels of recruitment and retention for maritime manning countries to cope with today’s maritime challenges.
“This is the only way for the Philippines to be able to take advantage of the expected shortfall of officers of 147,500 by 2025 to service the world merchant fleet,” he said.
BIMCO and ICS have reported that the current shortfall of officers stands at 2.1 percent, or 16,500 officers, saying that some officer categories, such as engineer officers at management level and officers needed for specialized ships such as chemical, LNG and LPG carriers, are in dire shortage.
Rodolfo Estampador of the Maritime Services and Management Inc. validated the observation, saying that education and training are the most visible challenges to Filipino seafarers
He added that international maritime standards require a full-year seaborne training and Philippine maritime training schools don’t own vessels in which seafarers could train.
“Because of the short duration of seafarers’ contracts—from only six months to nine months at sea, at the most—our seafarers lack the seaborne experience required by international maritime standards. We should remedy this gap,” Estampador said.