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The recently concluded 69th session of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 69) discussed among other key issues, the definition of “Industrial Personnel” aboard commercial vessels. This would involve an amendment of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention and would affect OFWs working aboard mobile offshore drilling rigs and floating production platforms and storage and other special purpose vessels. According to POEA data, there are over 5,000 OFWs working on oil rigs and similar installations. The MSC will continue working on this issue that will have a significant impact on this classification of OFWs.

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The MSC has issued a circular on a model National Maritime Security Legislation. The incoming Duterte Administration may wish to look at this model legislation if it wants to consider consolidating the country’s maritime security laws to strengthen the monitoring and control over the country’s maritime domain.

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Some years ago, the Philippines has undertaken the process to ratify the Convention on the Facilitation of Maritime Traffic or the FAL Convention in an effort to align the country’s port clearance process by reducing the number of documents that will facilitate the movement of cargoes in our ports. But the ratification process was never completed due to various circumstances although we understand the PPA is still keen to complete the ratification process. The FAL Convention has entered into force and has seen a number of amendments undertaken by the IMO. Being part of the global structure on the facilitation of port traffic would be beneficial for the Philippines. Perhaps, the PPA and DFA should be given the impetus to carry forward the accession to the FAL Convention and its amendments. Said agencies could call for the convening of the Inter-agency Coordinating Committee on the Ratification and Implementation of International Maritime Conventions (ICCRIMC) established through Department Order (DO) No. 2015-016 issued by the Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) on 13 August 2015.

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The Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) released the latest five-year BIMCO/ICS Manpower Report that provides a comprehensive update on the global manpower situation in the shipping industry. The Report was released on 17 May 2016 during the 96th Session of the Maritime Safety Committee held from 11-20 May 2016 at the IMO Headquarters. Among other items, the Report states that the Philippines remains as the largest supply country for Ratings while China is now the largest supply country for Officers. The Philippines, China and the Russian Federation rank as number one seafarer supply countries as reported by companies surveyed by BIMCO/ICS. The Report forecasts a serious future shortage in the supply of seafarers with a current shortfall of about 16,500 officers and a need for an additional 147,500 officers by 2025 to service the world merchant fleet. To address this concern on the future supply of seafarers for the world merchant fleet, it is crucial to promote careers at sea, enhance maritime education and training worldwide and address the retention of seafarers, the Report added. If the Philippines wants to remain as the world supply country for seafarers both for officers and ratings, our METIs should seriously consider the analysis in the Report to significantly increase training levels, promote careers at sea and enhance maritime education and training for the succeeding batches of Filipino seafarers.

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